Wizards take over Chestertown for HP Festival
— Spells were cast, potions were brewed, dementors were defeated and many a glass of butterbeer was raised during the fourth annual Chestertown HP Festival.
Held Friday and Saturday, this year’s festival was themed after the third book in the series by J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” All proceeds will go to the Garfield Center for the Arts and the Kent County Public Library.
“We think it went great,” festival spokeswoman Heather Calloway said Monday. “All of our ticketed events were sold out and we had tons of happy visitors come into the town.”
Festival Volunteer Executive Board President Tess Hogans said it is estimated that 6,000 people visited Chestertown during the weekend. This is higher than last year’s figure of about 5,000. Visitors came from as far away as Las Vegas.
Friday’s main event was a kickoff party at the Garfield Center for the Arts that included street theater scenes from the book, informal costume contests, wizard rock music and refreshments by various food trucks.
“I always love the party because it’s a great community get-together,” Hogans said. “We had well over the expected attendance. ... At least 320 people came to it.”
Saturday featured new events, such as a charms class at the Sultana Education Foundation — where participants used an acrylic rod to levitate a Mylar star with static electricity. And there was the Magic Hall of Talking Portraits at Chestertown River Arts. There, pictures moved and spoke to those who passed by.
“We had a bunch of new groups participate in the festival and hold their own events,” Calloway said. “It was really nice to see.”
She said the new Goblins & Galleons Bank display, at The Bank venue space along High Street, was one of the most popular events of the festival.
Volunteers from the Kent School modeled the former PNC Bank building after Gringotts Wizarding Bank, complete with a cheerful goblin manning the front desk. Visitors also were able to look inside a vault complete with deposit boxes.
“It was an incredible surprise to see the bank decorated,” Hogans said. “That was a remarkable amount of hard work and was just really magical.”
Ali Coe, 16, said she first came to Chestertown with a school field trip and while visiting, saw posters for the first HP Festival.
“I love it and it’s a nice town,” Coe said. “I always have fun while I’m here.”
Festival goers also took part in the Defense Against the Darks Arts Class — where Patronus charms took the shape of giant bubbles — during Potter in the Park at Fountain Park, brewed mixtures in a potions class, battled with spells in the Phoenix Dueling Club on High Street, shopped for wands at Robert Ortiz Studios and showed off their Potter pride in costume contests.
“I think my favorite part is just seeing all the people and how much fun they’re having,” Claire Denney, 28, of Salisbury said while dressed as escaped Azkaban prisoner Sirius Black. “Seeing everyone dressed up and getting into it is pretty cool too.”
The Kids Hogwarts Experience at the Garfield Center, where youngsters are sorted into one of the four Hogwarts Houses and take classes with wizard professors, was a hit.
“It’s a pretty neat festival,” Rebeca Dain of Baltimore said. “I’m glad they have something like this for the Harry Potter fans.”
Also popular was the downtown scavenger hunt, as participants went into local businesses and searched for clues. After completing the hunt, they received various prizes.
“We like how the whole town transforms and gets in on it,” Lisa Feinman of Severna Park said, as she and her family took part in the hunt. “We love doing the scavenger hunt, it’s fun.”
Teams and clubs from across the Delmarva Peninsula grabbed their broom sticks and took part in the Quidditch Tournament held at Wilmer Park. There also were “Kidditch” sessions of the wizarding sport for younger mages.
The Azkaban Prison Break Party was held at the Garfield Center Saturday night. Open to all ages, it featured trivia contests, themed games, “Quidditch pong” and live music.
Tristan Stewart, 11, of Virginia said his family drove two hours to attend the festival.
“We always enjoy it,” Stewart said as he played a game of Qudditich outside the Garfield Center during the party.
Lifestyle Editor Leann Schenke contributed to this report.
A cheerful goblin guards the front desk of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank during the HP Festival Saturday, at The Bank venue on High Street. The space was decorated by the Kent School.
Mya Hall of Salisbury, 20, stands dressed as Professor Remus Lupin while Claire Denney of Salisbury, 28, poses as recently escaped Azkaban prisoner Sirius Black during the HP Festival Saturday. See more HP Festival photos on A9.
The first part of the Kids’ Hogwarts Experience was to sort firstyear students into one of the four Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Professor Minerva McGonagall led the sorting.
Youngsters dressed in their finest Harry Potter garb gather onstage for a costume contest Friday night, during the HP Festival’s kick-off party at the Garfield Center for the Arts. The party featured performances of scenes from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” costume contests, festivities and more.