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Harlem festival celebrates native Oliver Hardy

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Festivalgoers check out vendors selling food, arts and crafts during the 23rd annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem.  JENNA MARTIN/STAFF
JENNA MARTIN/STAFF
Festivalgoers check out vendors selling food, arts and crafts during the 23rd annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem.

Thousands gathered Saturday in downtown Harlem to celebrate the 23rd annual Oliver Hardy Festival in the actor’s birthplace.

“We just have people from all over the world and all over the country,” Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said.

Culpepper said he had talked to people from Massachusetts and as far away as England, the home of a Laurel and Hardy international fan club.

Hardy and Stan Laurel are best known for making dozens of comedic films in the 1930s and 1940s. Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892.

Festival vendors –selling food, arts and crafts – lined the crowded streets. Hundreds gathered on West Milledgeville Road and North Louisville Street in the morning to watch the annual parade. Others chatted with impersonators of the comedic duo and browsed memorabilia in The Laurel and Hardy Museum. A theater showing movies starring the duo was set up at the museum.

Debra Elsmore made the trip from Washington, Ga., to check out the festival for the first time.

“I grew up on them,” Elsmore said of Laurel and Hardy.

She and friend Peggy Brown, also from Washington, had just finished a tour of the museum.

“Being a people-watcher, it’s been very interesting,” said Brown, who attended the event last year.

Elsmore said she plans to come back for a future festival.

“It’s a nice atmosphere,” she said. “Harlem’s a great little town.”

For some, coming to the festival has become tradition.

Christie Hughes, who grew up in Harlem, said she has gone to the event for the past 20 years.

“I’ve been going since middle school,” she said. “I have nieces and nephews now who are in the parade.”


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