‘Pot­terVerse’ at­tracts thou­sands to Bal­ti­more

On 20th an­niver­sary of Rowl­ing’s cre­ation, the magic hasn’t faded

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Erin Cox

Ja­son Ep­per­son, dressed in his best wizard’s robe, was con­sid­er­ing the pur­chase of a “mag­i­cal” 12-sided die Satur­day when his son started telling any­one who would lis­ten some Ep­per­son fam­ily busi­ness.

“Our dad’s a wand-maker!” said 8-yearold Jeri­cho, eyes spark­ing be­hind some Harry Pot­ter replica glasses. His 10-year-old sister, Aranatha, shot an ex­as­per­ated look from un­der her witch’s hat. “It’s true,” she said. “He uses our birth­stones. And puts in LED lights.”

When Ep­per­son de­cided to make wands for his two chil­dren to bring to Bal­ti­more’s first Pot­terVerse con­ven­tion, he even in­cluded a mag­netic tip to at­tract ob­jects from afar. “I try to keep them dream­ing, and keep them imag­in­ing,” Ep­per­son said dur­ing the sec­ond day of a sprawl­ing Harry Pot­ter con­ven­tion at the In­ner Har­bor.

Thou­sands gath­ered at the Re­nais­sance Bal­ti­more Har­bor­place Ho­tel this week­end to visit with a half-dozen sup­port­ing cast mem­bers from the pop­u­lar wiz­ard­ing se­ries, share fan fic­tion and dress in cos­tume. As the J.K. Rowl­ing se­ries cel­e­brates its 20th year in pub­li­ca­tion, fans are as ea­ger as ever to delve into the world Rowl­ing con­jured up just be­neath the re­al­ity of mod­ern-day Lon­don.

“There’s an en­tire uni­verse that has been cre­ated, some­thing that peo­ple can take own­er­ship of and imag­ine them­selves in,” said Pot­terVerse con­ven­tion co-founder Oni Hart­stein.

Les­lie Ster­ling of Clifton, Va., drove 90 min­utes to spend the day in Bal­ti­more dressed as the well-mean­ing and mis­chievous house elf Dobby. “You can walk into a room and you’re sur­rounded by strangers. But you walk into a room at a con [con­ven­tion], and you’re sur­rounded by fam­ily,” Ster­ling said.

Or­ga­niz­ers said at least 2,000 peo­ple had at­tended the con­ven­tion by Satur­day af­ter­noon. Events con­tinue through to­day, with ac­tors who played sup­port­ing roles in the Harry Pot­ter movies giv­ing talks, sign­ing au­to­graphs and chat­ting with fans.

“They’re real peo­ple, not just char­ac­ters,” said Amanda Pash of Pitts­burgh, dressed as Harry Pot­ter’s best friend, Her­moine. As she waited in line to meet ac­tor Devon Mur­ray, who played Seamus Fin­ni­gan in the film se­ries, she said she hoped he would au­to­graph the sev­enth book in the se­ries for her. “I’m so ex­cited,” she said.

Her hus­band, John Pash, mean­while, was dressed as the pal­lid, no­to­ri­ous Pro­fes­sor Severus Snape. John Pash has never seen a Pot­ter movie in its en­tirety or picked up a book, but he agreed to at­tend the con­ven­tion in a wig and robe as an 11th an­niver­sary gift to his wife. “She told me not to talk to any­body be­cause I get all the names wrong. I thought I was dressed as ‘Pro­fes­sor Snakes,’ ” John Pash said. “I’m just look­ing for a place to get a drink.”

Out­side in a quiet cor­ner, English pro­fes­sor April Wal­ters was chan­nel­ing Pro­fes­sor Dolores Um­bridge, dressed head-to-toe in pink and of­fer­ing free tem­po­rary tat­toos that read “I will not tell lies.” In the Pot­ter se­ries, the cheer­fully evil witch was aligned with vil­lain Lord Volde­mort and forced Pot­ter to mag­i­cally etch that mes­sage into the back of his hand. “Smi­ley and evil is fun to play,” said Wal­ters, who is an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County.

“It’s a good play­ground,” she said. “It’s easy to imag­ine your­self there.”

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Mem­bers of the Al­pha Kappa Al­pha Soror­ity from Tow­son Uni­ver­sity trace a mu­ral at Roots and Branches School in Har­lem Park. From left are Ngafla Bakayoko, Darre'll Joseph, Ashley Brit­ton, Lia John­son and Jas­mine Ward.

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