The Pictlings and I are all Potterphiles. I read the books when I was teaching High School English because my students were reading them but was then surprised by how engaging they were. I really liked them. I only, however, learned to love them when my kids came along and also started getting into Harry Potter first through the movies and then the novels. When it comes to geekery, they were very much Daddy’s Boys. Any geeky thing Mr Pict tends to be into, the boys also end up being into. Harry Potter is one of the few geeky things I share with my kids (the other main one being classic monster movies) so I have become more of a Harry Potterphile as a result of being able to indulge in it with them.
A couple of years ago, the three older boys and I went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour on the outskirts of London. It. Was. Amazing. It was crazily expensive but it was one of the best value for money things I have ever done. We had an amazing time. Wandering around the sets, seeing the props and the costumes was entirely magical. We also loved learning about all the technical aspects of film-making, from the animatronic creatures to the skilfully crafted props that I would have sworn were CGI had I not seen them on that tour. We drank butterbeer, we boarded the Knight Bus, we stood outside 4 Privet Drive. My Father-in-Law accompanied us and even as someone who had not seen the movies or read the book he was engaged all the way through just because of the quality of the film craft involved. The whole tour was completely enchanting and it has a spectacular conclusion which I won’t relate so that, if you have not been, I don’t spoil the surprise.
On Saturday, therefore, we were excited to head off to a Harry Potter festival which was being held in Chestnut Hill, another suburb of Philadelphia. In preparation, my children went armed with their Harry Potter wands and I drew a zigzag scar on one and Dark Marks on the other three. The youngest two also took their cuddly Phoenix and Buckbeak toys with them to join in the fun.
We had a tough time finding a place to park and the centre of the town was absolutely hoaching (a good Scottish word for “very busy indeed”). I would estimate that at least 30% of people milling around were in costume. There were loads of kids wearing Hogwarts uniforms and lots of adult witches and wizards. Some of the adults had very professional looking costumes. Lots of other people had nods to Harry Potter in their dress but had not gone the whole hog into costume. The whole town was also decorated to add to the magic and sparkle of the event. There were Dementors dangling from trees, lots of elements of set design and Potter props in the store windows and everything had been renamed to accord with the world of Harry Potter – even the portaloos. The whole place was just buzzing with imagination, creativity and fun.
In the grounds of the Elementary School, there were a whole load of crafting tables set up. My kids elected to make their own wands and had a load of fun selecting just which embellishments to use to make the wand the one that would choose them in Ollivander’s shop. They then ran around wizard duelling with other kids. In the same place, there was also a live game of wizard chess going on, with umpteen children undertaking the role of the chess pieces and being directed into position by a Professor Snape and a Professor McGonagall. They also took the opportunity to refuel so Mr Pict bought them each a poke of popcorn and they each got to order a potion from a table full of bottled potions. The oldest chose flesh-eating slug repellant, the youngest chose love potion (and promptly declared that it was me he loved) and the middle two chose polyjuice potion. They plucked a strand of each other’s hair to add to the liquid ingredients. Little horrors.
The kids got Harry Potter tattoos, poked around in antique shops, ate British style sausage rolls for the first time in over a year, had wizard battles on a lawn, bought butterbeer (which turned out to be a delicious concoction of hot scrumpy and butterscotch, not like the butterbeer at the Studio but still yummy), found owls and broomsticks and wands for sale, and had ballooon animals made for them.
We all had a blast – including Mr Pict who is lukewarm about all things Harry Potter – and thoroughly enjoyed the festival. The festival has been running for a couple of years and we hope it will run for many years as we would certainly love to go back again.