Admittedly, I have never been a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. Somehow I've managed to make it this far in life without reading any of the books or seeing any of the movies. This year, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to attend the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill and it opened my eyes to a new world.
I knew that there would be a large turnout based on what I heard about last year, but what I saw in real life was astonishing. Thousands of fans lined the streets dressed in their Potter best to show support for their favorite fictional characters. Babies and toddlers, teenagers and college students, and even full grown adults came willingly adorned in elaborate costumes. Some of the best ones I saw were the seven foot tall Hagrid, a man selling invisibility cloaks, a shockingly realistic Voldemo…(apparently not supposed to mention this name), professors and wizards galore, and hundreds of other fantastic beasts and creatures. It was like being transformed into the world created by J.K. Rowling’s imagination.
Vendors and businesses along the quaint cobblestone streets of Germantown Ave. did their part to set the mood by decorating their storefronts, dressing up, and selling everything and anything Harry Potter related. Broomsticks and wands aside, each business found a unique way to “Potterize” their products and services. Bars were selling butter beer for both children and adults, bakeries were selling cookies and cakes decorated with the crests and colors of the different Hogwart’s houses, and restaurants had special menus just for the festival. There was even an empty storefront converted into a pop up Magic Wand Store where I learned that you don’t choose the wand, the wand chooses you. Everything was well thought out and meticulously detailed to appease even the most hard core fans.
At one point, on the main stage, they introduced four actual college professors from different parts of the country who had just attended a Harry Potter academic conference and have written theses and books about Harry Potter and its literary importance and impact on our culture. A few of them even teach fully accredited Harry Potter courses that any student can register for. It was total insanity, but I was fully immersed into the Potter world and loving every minute.
The festival, which is one of the biggest of such festivals in existence, was said to have attracted upwards of 60,000 people from all over the country and the world. It is an absolutely magical experience and fun for even those like myself who don’t necessarily consider themselves fans. Harry Potter is a phenomenon and after attending this festival I see the devotion of its fans and cult-like following as a positive and wholesome thing. One of the signs at the festival read: “Wizards Welcome, [Muggles Tolerated]”. At the time I didn’t realize the true meaning of this quote, but now I see that it is basically a lighthearted “Potter” way of saying all are welcome. Even as a muggle, it is definitely worth attending the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Festival.