Harry Potter Festival 2009

Where I live (that would be in the city of Odense, Denmark) we have an annual Harry Potter Festival in September. It lasts a full week during which 300 children get the chance to attend Hogwarts and on the very last day the city centre turns into Diagon Alley.

The forces behind the festival include the local library, the city of Odense and loads and loads of volunteers. At Hogwarts – conveniently situated in our old town hall - it is our former mayor who plays the part of Dumbledore, the rest of the staff being portrayed by actors, librarians and hardcore role-players. At Diagon Alley they are joined by a huge number of volunteers who slip into the parts of the shop keepers and characters like Lucius Malfoy, Dolores Umbridge, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Percy Weasley and Harry Potter himself. The volunteers range from magicians and dwarfs to cartoonists and football heroes. It really is amazing!

As usual my daughter attended Hogwarts this year – she’s a Ravenclaw like her mum – and as usual she enjoyed it, although there were a few changes that she didn’t like. Only Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid and Snape were portrayed by the "usual suspects", whereas new faces had taken over the other parts. Still, it was worth attending the school, my daughter assured me.

Like in the HP-books the kids attend classes and compete against each other in order to win the House Cup. First, of course, they are to go to Ollivander’s to get their wands, and then off to the sorting ceremony and the feast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Classes include Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. All subjects are taught in Hogwarts (the town hall) except Potions which takes place in a nearby monastery dungeon, and Care of Magical Creatures, which is taught in Hagrid’s "hut", an old ruin behind the town hall. The kids practice Quidditch as well in the park and during their stay they have to fight dementors and other nasty creatures. To my daughter’s dismay there were no inferi this year, "only" Lord Voldemort, but he wasn’t half as scary, she said. Mad Eye Moody didn’t show up with his wondrous eye, either, instead Mr. Dursley broke into Hogwarts, looking for Harry. Totally out of place, my daughter thought.

Hufflepuff won the House Cup this year with Ravenclaw in second place and Slytherin in third. Gryffindor was disqualified due to bad form: they had back-talked and bullied the other Houses, a thing that would never happen in J. K. Rowling’s books, I’m sure!

Kids go to Hogwarts from 5.52 p.m. to 9.52 p.m. (in order for them to attend regular school during the day), but on the last day both Hogwarts and Diagon Alley are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and not just for students. Parents and muggles are welcome as well.

This year both Diagon Alley and Hogwarts had expanded to include a variety of new places to visit. Diagon Alley had added Gringotts to its list of buildings, the bank manned by real goblins (or rather dwarfs). St. Mungo’s had magically squeezed into the alley as well and lay side by side with Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Flourish & Blotts, The Leaky Cauldron, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, Quality Quidditch Supplies and of course Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.

In our version of WWW we only have George Weasley attending to customers, though. We’ve never had a Fred, I don’t know why, but then again we’ve never had a Sirius Black or a Remus Lupin, either, so I guess at the festival only Dumbledore and Snape have magically survived!

We spent rather an amusing day in Diagon Alley. We weren’t even able to spend all of our galleons (in Gringotts you get 1,000 galleons for Ł1!), although we’d bought both books and WWW tricks and had a meal in The Leaky Cauldron. In Flourish & Blotts we even had Gilderoy Lockhart try to charm our pants off, but he didn’t succeed although we came away covered in roses (real ones). I’m looking at them right now on my writing desk!

When we had finished our shopping in Diagon Alley we took the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts and here new features had been added as well: The Forbidden Forest and The Chamber of Secrets.

In The Forbidden Forest you had to fight your way past Aragog & Co. and in The Chamber of Secrets you came face to face with a basilisk. They had real tarantulas and snakes there as well and my daughter and I took a liking to a boa constrictor. As a kid I had a teacher, who was a magician and he sometimes brought his snakes with him to school, so I’ve never been afraid of snakes. But I probably shouldn’t have let my daughter pet that boa constrictor, because now that she knows how soft they feel, she wants one for Christmas!

Anyway, we had to pop in to see Snape in his dungeons while at Hogwarts. I always go there for a chat, and my daughter goes to mix potions. She’s quite good at it and although "our" Snape has the same cool dignity as Rowling’s, he has always given her an O. And I enjoy the chat, of course!

After that we watched a game of Quidditch, the footballer Thomas Helveg (formerly Udinese, Milan, Norwich City etc. AND the Danish national team) repeating his part as a very masculine Madam Hooch, judging the game.

The festival ends each year with a look-alike contest amongst the students, Dumbledore and McGonagall being the judges. This year some very young Weasley-twins came in as first and second and a Harry Potter look-alike as third, so my daughter had to see her Luna Lovegood defeated. Oh well, there’s always next year!

The entire Harry Potter Festival was duly covered by Rita Skeeter and of course you can read about it in one of two yearly editions of The Daily Prophet which you can get for free at the local library.

P.S. We missed Victor Krum this year. He was ever so delightful in 2008!

@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2009