Oliver Hardy Festival canceled for 2020 due to pandemic


Oliver Hardy Festival canceled for 2020 due to pandemic

Harlem Downtown Development Director Kennedy Sammons and Gary Russeth, a volunteer at the city’s Laurel and Hardy Museum, stand in one of the museum’s exhibits. The annual festival honors Oliver Hardy, who was born in Harlem. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Amanda King @kingamandap

This year’s Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem has been canceled after a meeting between the city and the festival committee Thursday night.

“This year’s festival would have marked the 150th anniversary of Harlem,” city manager Brett Cook said in an email. “We are very saddened to have to cancel this year.”

The city has played host to the festival for over 30 years, said tourism and special events coordinator Andrew McMahon. While the Laurel Hardy Museum draws tourists throughout the year, the festival brings in an estimated 30,000 visitors the week of the event, creating a huge impact on the city’s economy.

That many visitors could pose health risks to the city of 3,500 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is the committee’s first and foremost concern, McMahon said.

“We just hope and pray that 2021 is a better year than 2020,” he said. “This has been one the hardest decisions to have to make.”

Downtown business owner Adam Yoder said the impact will be huge on Yoder’s Dairy Farm, which did five times its normal Saturday business on the day of the festival last year.

The overall impact to local businesses is difficult to determine, Cook said.

“It certainly has an impact culturally, and we will miss an opportunity for people to visit Harlem and decide to revisit during the year,” he said.

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