Monday, 8 October 2007

Travel Diary: Harlem, GA: Oliver Hardy Festival

Lauren and Laurel and Hardy, 6 October 2007, Harlem, GAAs I mentioned in my previous post, our reason for driving out to Augusta, Georgia was to attend the nineteenth annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, Georgia. As the article in the Augusta Chronicle mentioned, we were missing an annual event in Birmingham, a Laurel and Hardy day at the MAC which took place every October. And finding ourselves in America, we decided to make pilgrimage to this annual event in Harlem, a small town in Georgia, about twenty miles from Augusta and a mere 300 or so miles from where we live in Raleigh. Oliver Hardy was born there in 1892 and this annual festival is the small town's opportunity to advertise itself to the world, with parades, stalls and entertainment.

We drove from Augusta and parked on the side of the road, about a mile out of town, when it became clear that others were doing the same thing, and the traffic going into Harlem was at a stand still. As we got closer, we met the parade coming through the town, with Laurel and Hardy impersonators at the front of it, the first set in a Model T Ford, the second set on the back of a van. There were lots of vintage cars in the parade, some local politicians and dignatories, and lots of schools, bands, cheerleaders, clowns and historical recreation types. In other words, it was a general celebration of Harlem; and the festival as a whole was the same, the streets full of people, stalls and huge amounts of food.

Since we are now pretty fond of Carolina barbecue, it was good to try Georgia barbecue, which is slightly different but still very good. It is a kind of "pulled pork" with a very tangy sauce, perhaps a touch hotter than the Carolina variety. There were multiple lemonade stands too, one in the shape of a lemon. Lemonade in America is what we would call lemon squash in England, and they drink lots of it, and it's quite nice.

We spent most of the day hanging around the Laurel and Hardy Museum. It was pretty full of people all day, but it was not so full that one could not look at the artefacts including some original Stan Laurel letters from the 1960s, shortly before his death. There were films showing all day and we watched The Chimp, The Music Box, Sons of the Desert and Busybodies. Lauren laughed so much during all of these that people occasionally turned round to stare (I think fondly).

Most memorable, though, were Laurel and Hardy impersonators Jamie McKenna and Bill Leavy. They remained in character throughout the day, walking around the town and meeting people, and they performed songs and interacted with people in the museum. The picture at the top is of the two of them with Lauren, taken by Viola. Viola also took some video footage, which have uploaded to Youtube and will link in a separate post. Here are several more photographs taken by Viola:

Mark, Emily and Lauren, Harlem, GA, 6 October 2007 Harlem, GA, Oliver Hardy's birthplace Harlem, GA, Oliver Hardy's birthplace

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Q just wants to say that the whole thing sounds brilliant! He thought that the two chaps with Lauren were absolutely the real deal.