The 4th Annual Chestertown HP Festival kicked off Friday evening, Oct. 6 with a dance party in the Garfield Center, attended by more than 250 festival-goers. Based on the popular Harry Potter fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling, the festival drew attendees of all ages from the entire middle Atlantic region.
For the festival, High Street was closed from Queen to Spring streets, with various vendors and exhibits along the way. In Fountain Park, a number of vendors offered Harry Potter-related items — such as Meckley Brooms of Lancaster County, Pa., which brought a selection of authentic-looking witches’ brooms. Vicky Meckley, whose husband is among the fourth generation of broom makers, said the 120-year-old company has been to a number of Potter festivals over the last year and frequently sells out its stock. The company also produces brooms for everyday use. She and the other family members at the booth took turns walking around town and enjoying the historic district.
The park was the site of a number of festival events, including a “Defense Against the Dark Arts” display where participants created giant bubbles to represent their “patronus” or magical protector. The costume contest was also held in the park. At other points around the downtown area, events included a “Magical Hall of Talking Portraits” at Kidspot, a Charms Class at the Sultana Education Center and a showing of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” at Kent County Public Library. Everywhere you went, there were people in Harry Potter-related costumes, both young and old, dressed as wizards, goblins, and dozens of Harrys and Hermiones, .
At Olivander’s Wand Shop, AKA Bob Ortiz Furniture Studio, wizards could purchase a variety of wands from five different vendors. Michael and Ramona Liles of Philadelphia, selling at the Vele Cruce table, said they were attending their first festival.
A popular feature was the scavenger hunt, in which participants visit businesses all over the downtown area searching for clues. Those who found all the clues and returned their form to the booth in front of the Garfield received a prize. Each of the participating businesses was renamed after an equivalent locale in the books — so that the former Chestertown Bank building, now the headquarters of KRM Development, became Goblins and Galleons, with a clue hidden in the old bank vault, and Book Plate became Flourish and Blotts Bookseller.
This year, there were enough successful participants that the festival had given out all its prizes by 3 p.m. — an hour before the official end of the hunt!
Wilmer Park was the setting for the Quidditch tournament — a team sport with similarities to soccer and basketball. There were several competing teams, from as far away as Philadelphia and Washington. The sport differs from the version in the Harry Potter books in that none of the players are flying on broomsticks — although they are required to carry a symbolic broomstick between their legs during play. There were a good number of spectators picnicking in shady spots around the park — with food provided by several vendor trucks, many of them local.
The Garfield also offered “The Hogwarts Experience,” a chance for young festival-goers ages 8-12 to take part in a re-enactment of one of the key elements of the Harry Potter world, the famous school of wizardry. In two different sessions, 40 participants entered the theater where they were greeted by Headmaster Dumbledore and a panel of wizards. Each came to the stage to be sorted by the traditional “sorting hat” into one of the four Hogwarts houses — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. They were then sent to tables where faculty members instructed them in magical arts, from the use of wands to cast spells to the detection of hidden properties of objects — such as the taste of different colors of jelly beans. The actors playing the faculty wizards gave enthusiastic performances, and the young students clearly enjoyed the experience.
In these “magic classes,” students get to take out their wands and practice repelling a “boggart,” a magical being who takes the form of your worst fear. With courage and heart – and just the right magical words – students learn to vanquish their own personal boggart, a handy skill to have.
The close of the festival was marked by another dance, the “Azkaban Prison Break Party.” named after the key event in the third of the Harry Potter novels.
All in all, it was another successful Festival. This year the festival was re-titled The HP Festival because the organization had received complaints from Warner Brothers’ legal department. But that didn’t throw a blanket over the fun – the magic was definitely there for this year’s festival.
4th Annual HP Festival
Diagon Alley is the Wizarding World’s Shopping District that is magically concealed from muggles’ eyes in London and in Chestertown is located in the Old Mill alley just off Cross St near the old train station.
The Evergrain bakery and coffee shop became Wizardgrain for the day. A wonderful place for young witches and wizards to introduce their parents to butterbeer and everlasting gobstoppers.
4th Annual HP Festival