The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Gotta get back to Hogwarts

Chestnut Hill’s Harry Potter Festival brings magic to Philadelphia

It’s been a fortuitous year so far for fans of the “Harry Potter” franchise. Several months ago, the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” premiered on London’s West End. The accompanying print edition of the play was a bestseller, and will be produced on Broadway in 2017. In November, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first-ever Harry Potter spinoff film, will be released in theaters. It was in this exciting spirit that the village of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania hosted its annual Harry Potter Festival on Oct. 21 and 22.

Every fall for six years now, Chestnut Hill has transformed into Hogsmeade in what is, above all, a love letter to J.K. Rowling’s generation-defining series. Fans take part in an immersive experience that pays tribute to the franchise that’s enthralled readers of all ages for almost 20 years.

I have been a Potterhead for most of my life, so I was psyched to embark on this pilgrimage with some of my friends and fellow fans. The festival’s official start time was 11:30 a.m., but we arrived at a quarter to noon, and by that time, the party was already in full swing. Philly.com estimated that over 15,000 people attended the festival, but that’s a low estimate. The relatively narrow Germantown Avenue was packed with people, to almost claustrophobic degrees. Due to the crowds, supplies ran thin, with kiosks running out of “Potter for President” buttons, house scarves, and other merchandise—most notably, Harry’s drink of choice, butterbeer.

Additionally, some of the events were a little halfhearted. My friends and I waited for 40 minutes so that two of us could be sorted into Hogwarts houses, but the “sorting” ended up being a free online quiz (which, coincidentally, one of us had already taken) and a photo opportunity with a house banner for $5. Another store advertised itself as Ollivander’s Wand Shop, but had no wands inside, unlike its book equivalent.

There may have been some lows, but when there were highs, by Merlin’s beard, were they great! Photo ops were set up along the street, including Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station and Number 4, Privet Drive. The Philadelphia Print Shop offered Hogwarts acceptance letters and diplomas. “Horcrux Stations” were placed up and down the street, where one could send a postcard by owl, choose a patronus, and make a Golden Snitch.

Chestnut Hill College held its yearly all-day Quidditch tournament. One particularly sweet vendor (the “Trolley Witch” from the Hogwarts Express) sold Cauldron Cakes, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and butterbeer cupcakes. “The Chestnut Hill Local,” the local paper, changed its name to the “The Local Prophet” in tribute to the wizard tabloid “The Daily Prophet.” A free Knight Bus was available to get around Germantown Ave., and the SEPTA train to Chestnut Hill was rebranded as the Hogwarts Express. All of these details made the experience fun and memorable.

One of the greatest parts of any fan gathering is seeing the cosplay, and the festival at Chestnut Hill was no exception. Dozens of fairgoers came dressed in their Hogwarts house garb, as their favorite character, or in t-shirts bearing their favorite quotes from the series. My group even took a picture with three cosplayers who perfectly embodied Harry, Ron and Hermione.

So if you’re a Potterhead and are not planning on going to Universal Studios anytime next year—heck, even if you are planning to go!—keep your schedule open for a trip to Chestnut Hill next October. It’s a solid immersive experience and a fun way to keep your fandom alive.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *