By Joseph Robertia
For anyone whose owl didn’t bring them word, last week there was an event exciting enough to Harry Potter fans to rival the Quidditch World Cup. The second annual Harry Potter Book Night took place around the world to share the magic of J.K. Rowling’s novels with current fans and up-and-coming readers.
According to the event’s website, http://www.harrypotter.bloombury.com, there were 12,600 parties held around the world, including on the Kenai Peninsula.
“It’s a worldwide thing that started last year and happens at libraries, schools and bookstores. Last year, we found out about it a little too late, but jumped on it this year,” said KJ Hillgren, youth services director at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna.
Potter fans were encouraged to come in costume, and library staff set a good example, as the hippylike Sybill Trelawney, the picture of pink Dolores Umbridge and gray-bearded headmaster Professor Dumbledore, just to name a few. There was a photo booth set up in the entry hall of the library where kids could dress up as a Harry Potter characters and pose for “Wanted” pictures.
“A lot of the events (around the world) have activities geared toward older kids, but we wanted to focus it on fun and educational activities for all ages, since we have a lot of families come through,” Hillgren said.
Some of the activities included “aparecium.” In Potter parlance, this means making invisible ink appear, but in Soldotna it meant coloring for kids and adults. Participants could attempt “muggle” studies — otherwise known as trivia. And there was a Defense Against the Dark Arts session, which included word searches and ways for kids to find their “patronus” — a spirit animal or guardian.
Donna Edmunds, of Sterling, said she was a teenager when the Potter books and films began.
“My brothers and sisters, we would all go together when they’d come out,” she said.
Now with three children of her own, she said she was excited to see her family fall under the same spell.
“I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to get into it. We’re a reading family, so my 9-year-old has to read them before he is allowed to see the movies, my 5-year-old is just starting them, and even my 2-year-old will say he wants to do ‘Totter,’” she said.
Laura Wertanen was also excited about introducing her toddler son, Carter, to the spellbinding series.
“This will be his first time watching the movie. He’ll eventually read them, but right now we’re still doing picture books,” she said.
Samantha Romig, 38, was proof that Potter mania isn’t just for the young, but also those young at heart.
“I love the movies, and Harry Potter, and all the magical things he does,” she said.
Hillgren wasn’t just an organizer of the event. She also remembers what it was like to be filled with wonder at the wand-casting exploits of the boy wizard and his friends.
“I was part of the generation raised on the books, and was the same age he was as they were coming out,” Hillgren said.
She wasn’t part of the madness that really swept the world when the movies came out, merchandizing took off and Universal Studios in Orlando opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
But instead of wishing she had a “portkey” to take her to the Florida theme park, Hillgren said she enjoyed enchanting others with the magical story.
“It’s great to see kids still getting into it and still getting excited by it,” she said.
The Potter-themed evening also served to help people battle the Alaska version of He Who Must Not Be Named, Hillgren said. In the books, that’s the villainous Lord Voldemort, but this time of year in Alaska, it’s cabin fever.
“The end goal is to get people out of the house and into the library,” she said.
Festivities wrapped up with a screening of the first installment in the film franchise, the 2001-released “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
The Kenai Community Library also offered wizardly festivities, including inducting visitors into Potter-themed houses, making custom wands, offering potions classes and various games.