CHESTERTOWN — A little bit of rain, a fair amount of wind and lots of gray clouds helped create the perfect atmosphere to bring alive Harry Potter’s magical world.
The second annual Chestertown Harry Potter Festival was held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2 and 3, with lots of fun activities based on the stories of J.K. Rowling.
Tess Hogans, vice president of the Harry Potter Festival Volunteer Executive Board and theater manager at the Garfield Center for the Arts, said this year had a fantastic turnout.
“We were a little worried about the weather,” she said in a Tuesday, Oct. 6 interview. “However, Harry Potter fans were incredible in their loyalty.”
Hogans said the board chose the fourth Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” as a loose theme this year.
The festival got going Friday night with the kick-off party at the Garfield Center, which had been transformed into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The party included improv street theater performances, where the participants for the Triwizard Tournament were selected from the Goblet of Fire. The contestants were Viktor Krum (Kirby Powell), Cedric Diggory (Jacob Chaires), Fleur Delacour (Ashley Lawton) and Harry Potter (Bryan Betley).
Then magician Vick Gisin — in the guise of Professor Severus Snape — astonished the crowd with his magical talents, such as levitating and shrinking objects, and igniting a page from a book into flame.
“He was amazing and everyone who saw him was blown away,” Hogans said.
Saturday featured a full slate of activities and games for Harry Potter fans.
People — many in costumes — poured into downtown businesses, hunting for hidden clues for the scavenger hunt. Hogans said this year, there were two levels to the hunt: the Ordinary Wizarding Levels and the Nastily Exhausting Wizard Test.
“We had complaints last year that the hunt was too long for younger participants, but too short for older ones, so we refined it a little,” Hogans said.
She also said there were 1,000 prizes — festival wristbands and totes — ordered and all of them were given away.
Robert Ortiz’ woodworking studio was turned into Ollivander’s Wand Shop for the day, with several vendors offering different versions of that all-important tool for wizardry and witchcraft.
Ortiz said the spot was quite popular, with large crowds coming through in waves and full of excitement about the different wands.
“There has been throngs coming in,” Ortiz said Oct. 3.
Quidditch, the top sport of the wizarding world, was brought to life around Stepne Station, though participants were not flying through the air on brooms as did the players in the books. Rather, they ran around the fields, still with the brooms between their legs.
Parents cheered as young chasers, beaters, keepers and seekers tossed quaffles and bludgers or tried to catch the Golden Snitch, which instead of being a winged orb was a person wearing a golden T-shirt. Think a combination of dodgeball, basketball and tag, with broomsticks and capes thrown in.
During the the Kids’ Hogwarts Experience at the Garfield Center, students were assigned a house by the sorting hat and took lessons with such famous professors as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, Sybill Trelawny and Gilderoy Lockhart.
At Potter in the Park, held in Fountain Park, there were vendors selling butterbeer and other treats, live music, a “Make Your Own Wand” booth, a costume contest and the Phoenix Dueling Club, at which wizards squared off against each other.
Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino, found at Potter in the Park, said he was excited about how much fun everyone was having. He said he was impressed with the turn-out.
New this year was the evening Wizard Dance Party, held at Hogwarts. There, those fans ages 12 to 20 could kick up their heels to various beats.
“We wanted something for the teenagers and young adults,” Hogans said. “From what I saw, it was pretty well attended.”
For the older crowd, J.R.’s Past-Time Pub was transformed into the Leaky Cauldron, serving butterbeer and other Potter-themed drinks and dishes.
“It’s hard to say what was most popular,” Hogans said. “Since everything in town was crowded and themed for the day, I think everyone just had fun walking around and taking it all in.”
She said 3,000 attendees took part in the festival this year, beating last year’s figure of 2,000. She also said there were more sponsors than last year.
“Though last year had the magic of being the first year for the festival, we were more prepared and ready this time around,” Hogans said.
She said the festival’s volunteer board are holding its first meeting about next year’s event. She also said the schedules dates for the festival will be Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2016.
“We also have been thinking about extending the festival to Sunday, so that it will last all weekend,” Hogans said. The theme will be based on the second book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
She also said next year’s festival possibly could include archery lessons, from instructors in centaur costumes. Centaurs are master bowmen in the Potterverse.
“We want to celebrate the books, and the creativity that comes from the love people have for them,” Hogans said. “We really want this to be something positive for the town, and I absolutely think it is.”
Editor Dan Divilio contributed to this report.