Ithaca’s Wizarding Weekend

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Where else but Ithaca could you find Bellatrix LaStrange, Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Rowena Ravenclaw all in one place, and not trying to kill each other? Professors McGonnagle, Trelawny, and even Gilderoy Lockhart were there, along with Harry, Hermione, Katie Bell, Cho Chang and even Alberforth Dumbledore (who used a delightful magical device to take what he called a “selfie” with his no longer estranged brother Albus.

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The Monstrous Book of Monsters was loose and startling people all over the commons – excuse me, Diagon Alley. “He who must not be named” chose to play nicely with others for just this one event; Ithaca’s Wizarding Weekend, celebrating all things magical and “Harry Potter”.

J.K. Rowling’s novels about the young wizard have captured the imaginations of a whole generation – perhaps two or three generations – bringing families together in a delightful, fanciful way. Children of all ages – some who just happened to be parent and child – remembered what a joy it is to play dress-up. The event has drawing power, bringing people from Hamilton, Ontario as well as New Orleans just to enjoy a special weekend of fantasy.

The costumes showcase the creativity of those who attend – a new mother with her baby wrapped in a gold fabric front carrier with two golden feathers on either side made for an adorable “Golden Snitch”. Another toddler was dressed in white feathers as “Hedwig”, Harry Potter’s owl.

Robes with all the house colors and insignias clothed many people, as well as intricate costumes depicting almost every character from the series.

What goes into the making of a costume?

Speaking from personal experience, it can be an extensive process. Several months ago, my wife Janet and I decided to participate as Rowena Ravenclaw – the founder of Ravenclaw House, and Albus Dumbledore, the school’s headmaster. As Janet says, “Go all out, or go home.”

Rowena (Janet) obtained her wand from Broomhilda’s this summer at the Renaissance Faire in Sterling, NY. The same vendor was in Ithaca doing a great business selling wands and brooms to the thousands of people who came. The Ravenclaw Diadem, a key artifact in the 7’th book of the series, was purchased from – but getting it to stay on the head proved to be a challenge…

Dumbledore’s (my) beard took an hour to apply. The challenge I faced, once the beard was fully applied and glued on to my face was getting any food through the mass of new hair without either messing up the beard or swallowing stray strands. Straws. They help.

One of the most imposing and dramatic costumes belonged to a gentleman who was portraying the potions master, Severus Snape. You could almost feel a chill pass over you as he walked by. When asked who created the costume, he said almost in a whisper “…my mom…”.

Jeff and Julie Lower played several roles including Igor Karkarov from Durmstrang, and Madame Maxine from Beaubaton School of Magic. Julie’s costumes are always extraordinary…

In walking around the Commons, the creativity of the local people was prominently on display. The four house common rooms were decorated by Mimi’s Attic, Life’s So Sweet Chocolates became Honeyduke’s, and many of the local businesses decorated their stores in theme to match both Harry Potter and Halloween.

Volunteer artisans created a full-sized Tri Wizard Cup and Voldemort’s grave. A skilled modeler created the “Monstrous Book of Monsters” and sent it skittering around the commons by radio control, surprising everyone it came close to. Think Battlebot with fur and teeth.

The evening’s banquet at Coltivare featured several of the professors from Hogwarts at the head table. Coltivare’s rendition of the “Great Hall” included the magically suspended candles we love from the movies as well as the long house tables clad with the four house colors.

Did the entire event go off without a hitch? No, but the problems were minor compared to all that went right. This is a volunteer driven venture, put together by a dedicated group of individuals who have already begun planning Wizarding Weekend 2017! For a look at who they are and what they contribute to the event, visit will give you the feel and information necessary to make your experience next year even more exciting. Volunteers are always appreciated and treated well while being given latitude to both participate and enjoy their assigned roles.

Until next year,

“Mischief Managed.”

Since I was involved with performing, I would like to credit Beth Bannister and Sue Roenke for allowing me to use some of their photos with this column.



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