Box Wine and Bowler Hats- The 25th Annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

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The first Saturday of October in the small town of Harlem, GA outside of Augusta, people show up in droves to celebrate the work of Oliver Hardy, one half of the famous Laurel and Hardy comedy duo.  To be more accurate, a handful of die hard Laurel and Hardy fans show up, and the rest of the drove is made up of locals that heard there would be funnel cake.

Harlem, GA is a typical small southern town of around 2500 people, except that they have Oliver Hardy on their water tower.

Water Tower in Harlem, GA Birthplace of Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame

Oliver Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892 and it would seem not much else has happened since.

I sat on the steps of the Harlem Baptist Church waiting for the 10 o’clock parade to kick off the festival and attempting to give directions to my friend, Chelsea, when the woman next to me leaned over and said, “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but tell her you’re at the red light.  She can’t miss it.”  That should give an indication of the size of this town.

The parade began at 10am appropriately enough with a couple of old cars filled with men dressed as Laurel and Hardy.

The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

That’s where the parade stopped making sense.  After this any mention of Laurel and Hardy was replaced by girl scout troops, volleyball teams, the high school band, local merchants, and what I assume to be everyone in a 20 mile radius with a car.  A few vintage and collector cars, mostly from the wrong time period, but not something you’d be completely shocked to see in a parade.

The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

This car was made the year Oliver Hardy died.  I suppose it could be considered loose themeing.

This car however, seems to be an 80s or 90-something Oldsmobile.

The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

This begs that age old question, when is it a parade and when is it just traffic?  The only answer I could find was that during the former it’s appropriate to let children run in the street.  The parade was however, a great chance for local merchants to advertise their businesses to a crowd.  Including my personal favorite…

The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

I’m not sure what they do, but if subject verb agreement is not your thing and you want at least 1/10 of the job done, you seen it here first.

This parade and a quick glance around the crowd made me realize that this was not a strictly Oliver Hardy Festival, but more akin to any small town’s fall festival, with occasional Laurel and Hardy undertones.  This was a bit disappointing, but at the same time I was relieved that the concerns I had about the half-assedness of my costume were largely unfounded.

We took a tip from a local (the one red light lady from the church) and left for lunch after the parade.  She was right, when we came back it was much less crowded.  The street was packed with booths full of jewelry, baked goods, and all the camouflage handbags one could desire.  There was a food court full of stands selling funnel cakes and roasted nuts, but there was still surprisingly little mention of Oliver Hardy.  There were, of course, nods to him about town, his face is on the water tower and several murals, but to the causal observer, this could easily have been any street festival anywhere in the country.

Then we found the museum.

The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

This is what separated the true fans from the funnel cake hungry masses.  Inside there was every manner of Laurel and Hardy memorabilia imaginable, from the adorable to the grotesque.

The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA   The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA  The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

This was the place to be for Laurel and Hardy photo-ops

The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

They even had professional Laurel and Hardy impersonators (yes, apparently that’s a real thing) standing by to answer questions and pose for pictures

  The Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GAThe Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA

There was even a theatre in the back of the museum continuously showing Laurel and Hardy films, and not just dvds, there was a seat in the back reserved for the projectionist.

While the festival itself was not as colorful as I had hoped, the museum more than made of for it.  And the good news it the museum is open year round, not just during the festival.  So, if your ever near Harlem that is definitely worth a stop.

Whether the towns people know it or not, the spirit of Laurel and Hardy is alive and well in Harlem, GA.

 The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA The Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

 

 

16 thoughts on “Box Wine and Bowler Hats- The 25th Annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA

  1. I merely much like the valuable information an individual deliver in your reports. I will bookmark your current blog site and check out yet again here typically. I am just pretty ‘ is going to be up to date a lot of new stuff proper the following! Have fun for one more!

  2. Go Georgia! My state rocks!
    Chad Thomson recently posted…Top 10 Valentine’s Day Retreats Part 2My Profile

    • Mags

      I love Georgia! My brother lives in Savannah and I find any excuse to go visit.

  3. Wow, thank you very much for posting this! It is gonna help me when I am thinking about going to Regal Exchange 20 in Augusta! I am from Syracuse so I am not familiar with Augusta. Next time I visit my family will be much better! So Astonishing!

  4. […] journey to the most bizarre festival in the deep south.  The Annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, GA.  What a weird […]

  5. Very interesting parade and festival. I enjoy attending festivals and parades in small towns and city. It shows you the culture of that place.

  6. I had to laugh reading this because it sounded like most other small town parades I’ve seen. Were there not old men in funny hats driving around mini cars representing the Kiwanis Club? Lol… Glad you found the museum. Certainly for the true fan or someone really curious about who Laurel and Hardy were. I love how you always find the quirkiest things!

  7. I get such a kick out of random festivals like this. The tiny town parade with Girl Scouts and a random Oldsmobile just makes me smile. I agree – any excuse to officially close of streets and write things on your car in temporary paint – is weird but amazing. I bet you could spend a lifetime going from place to place finding little celebrations like this.
    Julie recently posted…Corners of the Internet #7My Profile

  8. Lol – yeah it does sound like one of those typical small-town Parades. I never know if I like them or not 🙂 and somehow i’m always glad I attended. The cool thing about discovering new blogs is that you are introduced to new awesome things you have never heard before – this parade is one of those things. Everybody knows of Laurel & Hardy – good that they are celebrated!

  9. Oh wow! What an exciting festival to be part of and witness! I never knew of the Harlem connection. x

  10. Parades are always fun, and I always enjoy the air of festivity- especially with baked goods in my hand. Love the design of old cars, and great to know the museum is open year round. Will check it out if I head to Harlem!

  11. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Laurel & Hardy. I am fascinated by these small time festivals, parades and markets. Love the way they think of themes and subjects. 🙂

    Thank you very much for posting this!

  12. Wow, I didn’t know that at all. I think there is not much ads about that, but it is a great attractions since the comedy has been popular for decades

  13. Sounds like a fun day – it does sound like it’s more of a parade just for the sake of having a parade lol, but hey, I’ll never say no to an excuse to attend one! I’ve heard of Laurel and Hardy before but I’m not too well versed on their history. Jumping over to Wikipedia to look them up!

  14. This was such a funny read! Did you go to Harlem specifically for the festival, or did you just get lucky? 😉 I love a good street parade, and America has so many unique reasons, seasons and celebrities to celebrate.

  15. […] My Oliver Hardy Adventures in Georgia– The first trip I went on after starting my blog was to Harlem, GA for the annual Oliver […]

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