Laurel and Hardy

33rd annual Oliver Hardy Festival brings out a crowd

Oliver Hardy is best known as one half of the famed duo, Laurel and Hardy, from the early days of film in the first half of the 20th century.

For 33 years, thousands have filled the streets of Harlem on the first Saturday of October for the Oliver Hardy Festival. On Friday, organizers weren’t sure this was going to happen this year.

The weather cleared on Saturday and the people showed up.

It’s a festival honoring two iconic names in comedy. For soon, it is more than an annual outing.

“It’s like it’s old home week,” Linda Caldwell said. “Seeing everybody and asking oh my gosh, how many kids you got? How many grandkids, that type of thing.”

She’s attended every festival from the start.

On a normal day the town sees roughly 3,000 people walking the streets.

“What we want to do is bring the people into Harlem,” Caldwell said.

For one day, Harlem’s population swells nearly ten times. Caldwell’s watched it do so since day one.

“I have been to 33 festivals,” Caldwell said. “This is our 33rd one. We started in 1989 with the first festival and we had about maybe 30 vendors at the time.”

30 vendors turned into over 100 over time.

“It’s a lot of work to get out here and then you sit and rest five minutes and wait for the parade and after the parade you better be ready because here they come,” Toni Houston with Toni & Company said.

Between vendors and visitors, the money is coming in.

“Oh, heavens, I could not even tell you how many people we’ve seen,” Houston said. “We’ve had people come back and said we couldn’t get in. So, it really and truly has been like, oh my word, a great show.”

One show bringing together new and familiar faces and two people putting little Harlem on the big map.

“It’s just so family oriented,” Caldwell said. “Laurel and Hardy movies are very family oriented and anybody can watch them. You can bring your family and the kids no matter what age group, we can get them from two to 90.”

The town won’t know exactly how many people or how much money was made for another few weeks.

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