Harry Potter Festival – Our Year Three

On Saturday we visited the Harry Potter Festival held in Chestnut Hill, another suburb of Philadelphia.  This was our third year of visiting and it has become a family tradition to attend.  We almost did not go this year as we had a three way schedule clash to contend with, I have a pretty debilitating chest cold, and the weather was cold and rainy.  My Potterphile kids were aghast at the idea that we might not go along to the Festival this year, bottom lips pouting out like open drawers, so when our schedule clashes were cancelled because of the weather we decided to head on over to Chestnut Hill.

The first year we went to the Festival, it was a delightful experience.  There was lots of space to wander around and really absorb the magical atmosphere and observe the efforts the people of the town had gone to in order to turn their town into Hogsmeade.  There were also very few long queues so the kids could get involved in all sorts of activities and really make the most of the day.  Last year when we went, it was evident that the organisers were struggling to manage the vastly swollen number of visitors.  Longer queues and more crowds meant we had to get the kids to prioritise what they wanted to do because there was no way we could complete their wish list.  This year, I would estimate that the number of people attending had increased tenfold.  It was unbelievably busy for what, in essence, is a local fete – albeit one with a theme that has massive appeal.

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We were very lucky to secure a parking spot a few streets back from the town centre so that our walk was not too long, especially given it was cold and raining.  As soon as we hit Germantown Avenue, however, we were met with a wall of people.  I will state that the atmosphere was still brilliant.  A large proportion of those visiting were either in full costume or were wearing clothes related to Harry Potter.  My own children were wearing Harry Potter themed t-shirts but did not have them on display since they were wearing two layers on top.  We had a great time seeing people all dressed up, including a baby in a front carrier dressed as a mandrake and a dog with a harness that turned him into Fluffy the three headed dog.

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The crowds, however, were just intense.  There is no other way to describe it.  They got so thick at the train station end of town that it was impossible to move other than be carried along by the crowd.  I spoke to two cops who were being pushed along beside me and one commented that it was a bit crazy thinking about how challenging it would be for them to move quickly towards an incident.  I do not do well in crowds at all.  It makes my anxiety spike and makes me feel aggravated and, with the kids, a little panicky.  Everyone was being completely lovely about being squashed together and were being very accommodating and understanding but it was still pretty stressful.  The numbers of people also meant that the queues for every activity, stall, and shop were staggeringly long.  I overheard a whole lot of people complaining about the dearth of portapotties in town and that queues were often an hour or more long for those that were available.  We were lucky that none of us ever needed a comfort break.

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We did manage to squeeze into a couple of activities.  Two of the kids bought potions in the grounds of the Jenks Elementary School and the other two snagged the last two bottles of butterbeer.  They also got to have a go on some manual typewriters which they loved.  It was peculiar to me to think that a machine that saw me through my undergraduate degree was now being considered something antiquated and alien to kids.  They had no idea how to operate them, tapping the keys way too lightly as they would a computer keyboard.  Furthermore, the children (not just mine) seemed to have no idea what to do when they reached the end of the line.  I could  see mine searching the keys for a return button.  I showed them how to push the lever and move the roll along.  And then I realised that a mother standing next to me also had no idea how to operate a manual typewriter.  That made me feel very old.

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As Potterphiles, we will definitely return to the Festival next year.  Hopefully lessons will be learned and adaptations made but I wonder if anything can be done (beyond more portapotties and perhaps pedestrianising a larger stretch of road) to really accommodate the massive crowds in attendance.  But we will give it another go next year and see if things have improved so that we can enjoy the Festival again as much as we did in our first two years.

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19 thoughts on “Harry Potter Festival – Our Year Three

  1. I read it was mad in London when the new play started this summer… It looks like what it would be like if a Star Wars film was only released in one theatre world wide 🙂

  2. What a cool event! I wish we had something like that. Weird to read about the typewriter, but not many people used them even when there were no computers. I remember when I started working nobody in the office knew how to operate a typewriter, so I had to type all the letters (how convenient for others). Not many people had them at home and not many were interested to learn. That’s my experience. Very different from nowadays attitude towards computers where people are just expected to know it if they want to survive in business at all.

    • It just made me feel so ancient for typewriters to be this mysterious object to the kids and some of the (younger than me) adults. I did not have a home computer until I was into my 20s so I was using a manual typewriter all the way through High School and the first half of my undergraduate degree.

  3. How can 3 years have passed – I remember reading about your first visit!! It still sounds great but I would not do well in those crowds either. Chuckling about the typewriter too – my companion all the way through my degree but I bet our son has probably never even seen one.

    • The crowds were definitely too, too much. Everyone was jovial and accommodating and tolerant but it was still overwhelming. It will be interesting to see if any adaptations can be made to accommodate the vast numbers.

      While it didn’t shock me that kids did not know how to handle a typewriter (and mine were being far too delicate with the keys) it really was surprising to see so many adults not knowing what to do either.

  4. Bottom lips like open drawers–if I were a prof writer, I’d steal that one. 😉 Well, console yourself that there are still millions of us who grew up on manual typewriters. It is odd that they didn’t know what to do at the end. And I had no idea there were Harry Potter Festivals. Sounds like you sucked it up for the good of your family and went, despite the crowds and your cold.

    • Thank you for the compliment, Kerbey. The atmosphere and all the attendees dressed up in costume and fan t-shirts made it worth it and the town makes a great effort to become the setting of the novels. It was just way too busy this year. My kids don’t have the patience to queue that long.

  5. Yay! What a blast! Another happy event! I just wish something like that will come here. sigh. I can just relate with the typewriter thing. I used to use my mother’s old typewriter until half of college. Manual typewriter at first then graduated to the electronic one. How I miss those days. Click click click ting! Now I’m a mess with computers. If it weren’t for my husband I won’t know the basics of it. I think I only got a passing mark in school because I was always early with no absences.

    • I can’t official touch type, as I don’t use the correct fingers on the correct keys, but I’m a very quick and accurate typist despite that and I think that comes from many years working on a manual typewriter. In fact, when I first started using computers in my 20s, I had to learn not to whack the keys on the keyboard and that it was possible to go back and correct mistakes. I don’t miss changing ribbons though. Even in the mid-1990s, those were getting hard to find.

      • I also have difficulty typing ang only use a few fingers. My mother though learned how to type properly from school and can look at the paper she was copying and type away not missing when to use the knob to turn the page. Such an amazing skill. It was easier for her than me when computers came along.

  6. It’s great to see a local festival like this getting so much traffic! Maybe next year they might run it over an entire weekend, that might help thin out the crowds a bit. And I can’t believe that typewriters are now so obsolete as to be a curiosity! I suppose that means I’m officially in the “oldies” camp myself 😆

    • I think running it across the Saturday and Sunday would be useful. Currently it’s just the Friday evening (more for grown ups) and the Saturday. They could also pedestrianise a longer stretch of the main thoroughfare. It will be interesting to see what they do next year and whether it makes much difference.

      • Definitely! People probably need to start making suggestions now though if they’re to get sorted out by next year… That time is just going to zip by! I can see why it’s so popular, they really do go all out.

  7. Pingback: Harry Potter Festival 2017 | A Pict in PA

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