In the fall of 2016, news of a fete fit for a wizard made its way around the internet, popping up on the Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, and Condé Nast Traveler just weeks before the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill.
Triple the usual number of Potter fans turned out for the annual festival, leading to long lines and shortages no magic wand could fix.
The 2016 event had an estimated 45,000 attendees, said Martha Sharkey, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District. The streets were flooded with Harrys and Hermiones.
“It is incredible to see the dedication and passion of the Harry Potter fan base,” Sharkey said.
This year, organizers are taking precautions to make sure there is enough food, plenty of porta-potties, and fewer traffic jams.
The festival will take up more blocks of Germantown Avenue, from Cresheim Valley Drive to Chestnut Hill Avenue. Muggles are encouraged to park at one of 10 satellite parking lots and use provided shuttles or to take SEPTA Regional Rail to Chestnut Hill East and West.
At Wands and Wizards Night on Friday evening, festivities will include circus performers, fortune tellers, and an astronomy night hosted by the Franklin Institute.
On Saturday, the festival will feature a multitude of selfie stations, food trucks, Mike Dupuy Falconry, and “of course, Sorting Hat demonstrations,” Sharkey said.
Arts-and-crafts stations around the festival will give kids an opportunity to design their own crest, make Dobby ears, or create their own golden snitch. Woodmere Art Museum will have a Triwizard straw maze and partner with McNally’s Tavern for an on-site beer garden with birch beer for kids and pretzel wands.
What is a Harry Potter festival without a Quidditch tournament? No portkeys needed; you can walk to the Brotherly Love Cup, held a mile down the road from the festival at Chestnut Hill College.
The festival has its roots in this tournament, which started eight years ago. When Chestnut Hill saw how popular the college event was, the neighborhood decided to have a corresponding festival along its own Hogsmeade-esque cobbled streets the following year.
The tournament is still going strong. Games are played against the backdrop of the turreted St. Joseph Hall, “which is cool, because it looks a little like Hogwarts,” said Emily Schademan, the college’s director of student activities.
The whole school gets into the spirit, hosting a Harry Potter Conference on Friday. During the tournament, the college has its own vendors and food trucks on campus; student groups have games that include Pin the Lightning Bolt on the Harry; and the chemistry department does Potions demonstrations.
Ten teams — from such schools as Villanova University, the University of Pennsylvania, and, of course, Chestnut Hill College — will face off in the Quidditch tournament. The game is like a combination of other sports such as football and dodgeball, the players say, but unlike other sports, players run around on broomsticks.
One yellow-clad player acts as the snitch and can be pretty slippery. Half the fun is watching the snitch engage with both players and spectators before eventually being “caught.”
Chestnut Hill College has a red-and-white uniform, and the college mascot is the griffin, so “basically, we belong to the House of Gryffindor,” said Duncan Malone, a senior who plays both the Chaser and Beater positions.
Spectators don striped scarves and round glasses and watch the game from the natural hill beside the field. Picnics are welcome, but alcohol is prohibited.
“It’s BYOB — bring your own broom,” Schademan said.
It’s always cool to see photos taken during the game, Malone said. If captured mid-jump, players can appear to have actually taken flight.
Do the Chestnut Hill College players think they can win the cup this year?
“We don’t think it,” Malone said. “We know it.”
Harry Potter Festival
Chestnut Hill holds its annual Harry Potter Festival on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20 and 21.
Wands and Wizards Night on the Avenue will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday along Germantown Avenue. The cost is pay-as-you-go.
The Franklin Institute’s astronomy night will run from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Jenks Playground at 8301 Germantown Ave. An 18-and-older costume contest will be held at the John Story Jenks Academy at 8 p.m.
Saturday festivities will kick off with the Firebolt 5K and One Mile Nimbus Walk at 8 a.m., followed by the festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Germantown Avenue. The cost is pay-as-you-go.
The Brotherly Love Cup Quidditch Tournament will also run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at Chestnut Hill College, located at 9601 Germantown Ave.