A spell was cast over Chestnut Hill, a neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia, on October 16th and 17th for the 5th annual Harry Potter Festival. Witches, wizards, and muggles of all ages flocked to the area to get just a taste of the magic, whether in the form of a bottle of butterbeer or a front-seat at the Quidditch tournament.
Cheers erupted on Saturday at 11 a.m. when the “Hogwart’s Express” pulled into the Chestnut Hill West SEPTA Station, signaling the official start of the festivities. Character look-alikes descended the train and made their way through a bustling crowd of hundreds of people to a designated area where Cornelius Fudge, Dumbledore, and Umbridge fought each other for words at the opening ceremony.
The festival primarily took place on the neighborhood’s main street, Germantown Ave., with magic from the wizarding world spilling over onto many of the side streets, as well. The 6th annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Quidditch Tournament was also held simultaneously at Chestnut Hill College, with “The Knight Bus” shuttling fans to and from the field throughout the day.
Families of four, each wearing a scarf representing a Hogwarts house, could be seen walking up and down the avenue. A group of friends dressed up as Death Eaters sat on a bench, sipping from their bottles of butterbeer and sharing a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. A girl wearing a “Weasley is Our King” shirt walked hand in hand with a guy dressed up as Snape. Hogwarts crests and Deathly Hallows symbols were on shirts everywhere.
Magic was in the air at every business on Germantown Ave. Each store, restaurant, and café was decorated to resemble a location from the world of Harry Potter so that for the weekend The Night Kitchen Bakery & Café became “Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Shop”, Zipf’s Candies became “Honeydukes”, and the Chestnut Hill Welcome Center became the “Ministry of Magic”. Wands, magic supplies, wizarding attire, and specialty foods were available at every establishment.
Activities were offered for all age groups over the course of the weekend. On Friday the annual Harry Potter Conference, an academic discussion of themes presented in J.K. Rowling’s literature, was held. The Harry Potter Pub Crawl took place on Friday night, with guests encouraged to dress up for a tour of the neighborhood’s best spots to find a wicked brew. Saturday offered younger fans all kinds of activities to enjoy, including the Serpent of Woodmere Straw Maze and the Hunt for the Horcrux scavenger hunt.
Other events included live readings of the Harry Potter books, showings of the movies, Sorting Hat demonstrations, and the opportunity to meet live owls from the Philadelphia Zoo, just to mention a few of the different activities that were available.
The festival, according to shopkeepers on Germantown Ave., has grown in popularity every year. This year more fans than expected turned up, causing the most popular merchandise, such as butterbeer and Hogwarts house scarves, to sell out within the first hour at some locations. The energy and excitement throughout the weekend was tangible, with every person contributing to it with the one thing they all had in common: their love of Harry Potter.
Montclair State | New Jersey