Many Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel fans will flock to Harlem this weekend to celebrate the city's 20th anniversary of the Oliver Hardy Festival.
Long before Saturday's main attraction begins, fans will descend upon the area to celebrate the comedic duo. Laurel and Hardy lookalikes Dennis Moriarty and Dale Walter of Canton, Ohio, will serve as grand marshals of the parade. They arrived in town earlier this week and started to make their annual rounds to elementary schools, retirement facilities and civic club meetings.
"They have come here for many years," said Denise Carter, Harlem's planning and zoning coordinator who is charged with organizing the city's programs and events. "People look forward to them coming every year. They come for the entire week and make visits to elementary schools and do skits for people in retirement homes. It's a lot of fun."
Last year's festival attendance was estimated at 32,000. Carter said different entertainment acts have been added to this year's lineup to provide variety.
The festival will kick off with the children's parade Saturday at 9 a.m. Arts and crafts booths will also open at 9 a.m., with an opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at a stage located near the Harlem Police Department. Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper will deliver a welcome address and Elyse Walden will sing the National Anthem.
The main parade starts at 10 a.m., followed by various acts on two stages - one at the police department and the other in front of Harlem City Hall. Among scheduled entertainment are Jake Tice, the Brittany Bus Band, Tank and Good Ole Boys, Foot Loose and Fancy Free Cloggers, Gene Love and Friends, Tammy Boswell, Joshua Guillebeau and St. Bandit, Denise Cheek Studio of Music, the Wake Up Puppet Team and Tuff-E-Nuff. Laurel and Hardy skits will be performed throughout the day.
This year's festival will be highlighted on the United Kingdom Travel Channel program "Great Motorcycle Rides of the World." The episode, set to be broadcast to nearly 18 million homes throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia and South America in November, will be televised on CNBC worldwide in early 2009.
"The previous three programs in the series have been the highest-rated Travel Channel programs ever, and because of this they are constantly repeated on Travel Channel and Travel Channel 2," wrote Hamish Rieck, a producer with HCA Entertainment Ltd., in an e-mail to Carter in September.
"It would be great to be able to film inside the museum and talk to someone about Laurel and Hardy, especially as this is where Oliver Hardy was born," Mr. Rieck wrote. "They are of such worldwide fame I thought we couldn't pass by so close to you and not come and visit."