The Magic Comes to Life: Fellows Volunteer at Harry Potter Place
by Gillian Levinson (’07 Fellow)
As anyone familiar with the Harry Potter pantheon knows, the dream world, with its Technicolor landscape and dramatic twists, can be as visceral as reality, and sometimes reality can be as mystical as a dream. This is particularly the case with regards to Harry Potter Place, Scholastic's public celebration in honor of the release of the seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series. A swirl of vivid hues and fantastical creatures, the six-hour long street fair was truly like something out of a magnificent reverie. And while detractors may harp on the banality of such a description, I can think of no other terminology which so aptly captures the magic of the Harry-centric festivities.
I was fortunate enough to volunteer for Harry Potter Place, along with other interns and full-time employees, and can say without reservation that the experience was not only one of the best of the summer, but quite possibly one of the best of my life. To be in the epicenter of a pop-culture phenomenon—one which I might add that I caught on to before words like "Quidditch," "Slytherin," and "muggle" became part of the popular lexicon—is a feeling unlike any which I have ever previously encountered.
Held on Mercer Street directly behind The Scholastic Store, Harry Potter Place was designed to suggest Diagon Alley, with its cobble-stoned streets and colorful street performers. Attractions included the Muggle Board, upon which fans could post messages to Harry and the other characters, and the Pensieve, a retrospective look at all seven Harry Potter books, as well as wand-making, face painting, and Moaning Myrtle portable bathrooms. Perhaps most impressive was the life-sized recreation of the Whomping Willow, complete with the Weasleys' ramshackle flying car.
Yet from my perspective, the day was more memorable for its palpable excitement than for its accoutrements. Fans were dressed in an array of Harry Potter-related costumes, ranging from Lucius Malfoy to Professor Trelawney to Madame Rosmerta to Harry Potter himself. Attendees also spanned generations, and it was not uncommon to see parents with strollers or elderly couples walking hand-in-hand. As one of the volunteers handing out bookmarks at the exit to Harry Potter Place, I found myself smiling from ear to ear as I watched children and adults leave the fair with a real sense of enthusiasm and eager anticipation on their faces.
At one point, one of the other volunteers asked a young boy of about five to perform a spell with the wand he had made. He replied Wingardium Leviosa, and I jumped into the air to illustrate the spell. In so doing, I dropped a number of the bookmarks I was holding in a basket as giveaways—in some ways, I think I resemble Neville Longbottom come to life, minus the love of plants.
My point? Harry Potter Place was one of those events that blurs the line between adulthood and childhood. Just like each of the seven books, the Scholastic celebration yielded the same effect, the overpowering sensation that magic exists, and isn't it wonderful?