Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Rain didn’t stop the most avid magic fans at Wizarding Weekend last year, where children and adults alike were decked out in their favorite fantasy costumes.

October 16, 2019

Annual Wizarding Weekend Set to Enthrall Enthusiasts With New Interactive Activities

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Wizarding Weekend, in its fifth year, is once again going to bring fans of magic, science and fantasy together on the Ithaca Commons on Oct. 26 and 27 with various interactive games and crafts. This year’s highlights include a scroll ceremony and guardian quest, a Fan Arts Show and, as before, a wide range of costumes to add lively colors to Ithaca’s fall season.

“Two local teenagers came up with the idea in 2015. They just thought it would be cool to have something fun related to a specific set of books in what is now Press Bay Alley,” Darlynne Overbaugh, the director of the festival, told The Sun.

Leading up to the first iteration of the event, she had planned a five-hour event for five hundred families during one week. “But it went viral,” Overbaugh said, and “eight thousand people turned up.”

Now, the annual event takes an entire year to plan and attempts have been made to make the event more representative of the local culture.

The Gorgekeep School of Magic, a festival creation based on the local area, draws most of its inspiration from plants and animals in New York State such as sugar maple and trillium and was modelled after the local New Roots Charter High School.

Guardians from the “school” will present participants with scrolls during a special ceremony on the Commons, as well as leading them through tasks activities to complete a quest.

And through the help of an augmented reality app, the local New Roots Charter School will be transformed into the Gorgekeep School of Magic.

In 2018, Overbaugh told The Sun that Warner Brothers had sent her  a “cease and desist” letter prohibiting any reference to Harry Potter. This led to the festival being rebranded to celebrate all magic and fantasy.

On the event’s website, there is a disclaimer that says that Warner Bros. Entertainment, Pottermore, and J.K. Rowling are not associated with or responsible for the event.

Overbaugh said it was often very difficult during the planning process, because they wanted to cater to all fans of magic and fantasy while not alienating those who have a specific interest.

She mentioned that many ideas for the event were generated by family discussions with her eight-year-old daughter and her husband. She has also engaged with students from Ithaca College’s public relations course to brainstorm on potential ideas.

Overbaugh’s advice for this year’s attendees was to “come in a costume.” According to Overbaugh, each year there are many people who come just for the purpose of seeing everybody else’s costumes. “Costumes allow people to embrace the theme of the event and to live in the moment,” she explained.

While the event is free, there is also a magical passport at $25 available for those who want an enhanced experience that includes participation in a magical creature hunt with prizes and other activities .