October 28, 2018

Wizarding Weekend Brings Rainy Magic to Ithaca Commons

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Rain didn’t stop the most avid magic fans at Wizarding Weekend this Friday to Sunday, where children and adults alike were decked out in their favorite fantasy costumes while playing games, eating at food trucks and purchasing handcrafted items from vendors.

Wizarding Weekend was first inspired in 2015 by two teenage boys who wanted to celebrate Harry Potter. After the event went viral on social media, the first Wizarding Weekend attracted 8,000 visitors, according to Darlynne Overbaugh, the festival director. This year, Overbaugh expected around 10,000 visitors compared to last year’s 20,000, due to the weather.

Overbaugh said that he festival was rebranded after Warner Brothers sent a “cease and desist” letter this year, prohibiting the festival from referencing Harry Potter. Now, Wizarding Weekend is focusing on all magic and fantasy celebration, she said.

This year, celebrities from major fantasy movies and other shows were paid to meet fans and answer questions in a panel. Celebrities included Scarlett Byrne, from Harry Potter and The Vampire Diaries, Holly Marie Combs, from Charmed and Pretty Little Liars, and Erica Cerra, from The 100 and Supernatural.

“I’m a very big Harry Potter fan so I think the [Wizarding Weekend] concept is fantastic,” Cerra told The Sun. “I love magic and mythology so I would support any sort of wizarding and witches and weekends.”

Wizarding Weekend works closely with nonprofits as well. The money earned through the celebrity visits will be donated to nonprofits who were involved in the festival, according to Overbaugh.

Human fans were not the only ones joining in the magic. Cayuga Nature Center, one of the affiliated non-profits, brought in a red-tailed hawk and Barred Owl for visitors to learn more about and to cater toward the mystical theme of the festival.

“[Wizarding Weekend] offers us a different educational avenue that we can’t usually explore, in taking parts of real native animals and allowing people to do fun and imaginative activities,” Dayna Jorgenson, Director of Nature Center Programs, told The Sun.

Handcrafted items were central to Wizarding Weekend. Booths were filled with wands, trinkets and accessories. People could buy scarves for their Hogwarts House or brooms for their Quidditch aspirations.

“People have an affinity for handcrafted items. They always have and I think they always will,” said Elijah Corder, a finisher at Broomhilde, which sells handcrafted wands, brooms and walking sticks.

Fans wore elaborate costumes from favorite fantasy series. Costumes included classic Harry Potter characters like Albus Dumbledore and Luna Lovegood to other fantasy characters such as Legolas from The Lord of the Rings. Some people requested pictures with people dressed as favored characters.

Paul Knorr, who dressed up as Hagrid, stood in front of a shop as people stopped to take pictures with him. His size of over six feet and 400 pounds made Hagrid the best person for him to dress up as, Knorr told The Sun. Knorr, like many festival attendees, came with his family.

“I’ve read all of [the Harry Potter books], I saw all the movies. I got my kids into it and they really liked it,” Knorr told The Sun.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic as Knorr was. Matthew Schiralli was dressed as Dumbledore, complete with gray robes, a gray hat, a foot-long beard and a wig. He drove two hours from Rochester, N.Y. to come to Wizarding Weekend, but Schiralli has never read Harry Potter or watched any of the movies.

“I’m dressed up because I’m married,” Schiralli told The Sun. “I put on the clothes that were put out for me.”

This kid-friendly event also included free balloon animals, made by Peter Muzio. Muzio twisted balloons into bats, wings, swords — whatever attendees requested. He said he was sponsored by the festival organizers to “add magic” to the event.

“Rain or shine it is so fun to be with fans, because fandom is the best part about doing this,” Muzio told The Sun.