Saturday, July 31, 2021

20 Years of Wizard Magic

Happy Birthday to the boy who lived.  Today, the fictional boy wizard turns 41.  While the books aren't quite that old, it has been quite a while since my love of the wizarding world first started.  In honor of Harry's birthday, I thought I'd share the story of my love of Harry Potter and how it's grown through the years.

It's been 20 years since I first entered the wizarding world.  It seems funny to admit it now, but I actually had a slow start on my transformation from "muggle" to "witch".

My first dip into the magical world was in 2001 when I was a junior in high school and I went to the first movie for a friend's birthday party.  I absolutely loved the movie.  After watching it, I went out and bought the first three books of the series and I slowly read them leading up to the release of the second movie a year later (on November 14th of 2002).  I remember laying on the living room couch for hours reading.  Once I started reading the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, I had a hard time putting it back down in between chapters.  It was like a slow burning fire just getting started.

From there, it took off like a Nimbus 2000 and there was no looking back.

The Order of the Phoenix (book 5) was released on June 21st of 2003.  I didn't stay up until midnight for the release but it was the first Harry Potter book that I bought right when it came out and owned in hardcover.  I remember that I snuck chances to read it whenever possible, even at work.  I didn't want to put it down!

On June 4th of 2004, the Prisoner of Azkaban (movie 3) was released in theaters.  I remember that it was a little spooky as it was the first time that the happy, colorful movies took on a dark overtone.  (As the books got darker and the movies mirrored them.)  At this point, I was thoroughly engrossed in the movies- going to see each one multiple times in the theaters and buying the DVDs the day they were released.

Naturally, as the release of the 6th book was approaching, I was getting increasingly excited to get my hands on it.  That year, I was home from college for the summer and working at Sherman's Bookstore in Bar Harbor.  They took pre-orders for the book and wanted to do a big release party for it at midnight.  

My friend Laura (who worked at Sherman's with me) and I decided to make it really fun.  I spent weeks pouring my heart and soul into the release party.  Laura and I handmade a workbook for kids to do while they waited in line.  I baked cookies and decorated them with Harry Potter icons.  The local newspaper wanted to do a parade from their office to our store front, and my boss asked me if I wanted to lead the parade of children.  I agreed to do it and to dress up for the occasion. 

I enlisted the help of my Nana, and as my fairy godmother, she spent hours working on wizard robes for me.  Today, you can easily order them, but back then, if you wanted robes you were making them.  She sewed me a giant, thick, movie accurate robes with burgundy lining and a pocked for my wand.  We used black fleece material so it was thick and warm.  Finally, we found golden clasps and I bought a licensed Gryffindor patch online to complete the look.  Nana worked so hard on those robes.  (In fact, she was literally in the back seat finishing sewing the hood onto it while my parents, Nana and Papa drove into Bar Harbor to watch the parade.)

On July 16, 2005, the wait was finally over.  I showed up at work that night in a full costume.  Before heading down to the newspaper office, I dropped off the cookies and workbooks.  My coworkers loved my outfit.  We were ready.  The white Scholastic boxes of brand new books were still sealed, but stacked at the registers ready to break open at midnight.  The only thing left to do was wait the last few hours.

I walked down Main Street to the newspaper office where children and their parents were gathered.  And from there, "Hermione" lead the children down Main Street towards Sherman's to the release party.  I wore the full Gryffindor uniform: white button down shirt, gray skirt, gray Gryffindor sweater, striped Gryffindor tie, black Mary Jane shoes and black knee high socks, and my custom made wizard robes.  Of course, no Hermione costume is complete without her hair.  I wore mine down and brushed it out so it was giant and frizzy.  Then, I borrowed "Hagrid's Lantern" which was a lantern I had that I placed a glow stick in so it would glow along the route.  I even had a wand!

The children loved it.  I let them take turns carrying my lantern and together we walked down to Sherman's.  There was already a crowd waiting outside the store.  My parents, Nana and Papa sat on a bench nearby.  They weren't there for the release but they wanted to see me walk by in my costume.  A few of my friends were also outside.  (At the time, they were probably laughing at me, but when I was the featured photo in the newspaper a week later, I got the last laugh.)

It was such a special memory.  One little boy dressed up as Harry Potter thought I was really Hermione and the look on his face when he looked up at me is something that I'll never forget.  Seeing those children enjoy the parade, so happy to carry the lantern, using our workbooks and eating the cookies is something that I'll never forget either.

Side Note: I've looked everywhere for a photo of me dressed up as Hermione, but I can't find one.  I know that I also had pictures of the cookies I baked.  If I can get my hands on the photos I will definitely update this post!

Later that year, on November 18, 2005, the Goblet of Fire (4th movie) was released in theaters.  Fresh off of my high of the release party, I invited a bunch of my friends to celebrate my birthday by going to see the movie with me in Boston.  My friends Katie, Ashley and Laura all came down to visit from Maine, and I went to see the movie with them and a bunch of my yearbook friends from Wentworth.

At this point, the Hogwarts Express was running full speed and never coming back to the station.  I was completely 100% hooked to the magic of the wizarding world.  So much so, that I decided I wanted to go to a Harry Potter conference in Las Vegas.  I wanted Katie to come with me, so I wrote her a Hogwarts Letter on scrapbook paper that looked like parchment, printed it with green ink and sealed with with a burgundy wax seal.  She agreed to go with me and our plan was born.

In the summer of 2006, my Dad, my brother Jeremy, Katie and I all went to Las Vegas for the first time.  While there, Katie and I attended the Lumos 2006 conference a few minutes away from our hotel, and we also did a ton of sightseeing.  It was so much fun to explore the Vegas strip and all of the stores.  And the conference was unforgettable.

Katie and I were introduced to so many people and another whole level of the Harry Potter fandom.  We attended sessions that spoke more about the wizarding world and themes in the books.  The conference was geared towards teachers so the sessions were really educational... but it was mostly a bunch of fun. 

I had signed up to play Water Quidditch as an individual and I was adopted by a group from Georgia.  It was the best thing that I could have done.  It was a great way to meet people and Water Quidditch was so much fun!  We were Team Gillyweeds (green) and our captain Jeff designed matching shirts for us all to wear.  The game was so much fun.  We were actually pretty good too!

The other thing that Katie and I got out of the conference was an introduction to Wizard Rock.  There was a whole group of musical artists who wrote songs based off the books and the wizarding world... and they were all really good.  One night of the conference, there was a "Yule Ball" where everyone dressed up and a bunch of the bands performed a concert.  Katie and I were surprised at how much we loved it.  Plus, some of the bands were from New England, so they also had concerts closer to home!

We left Las Vegas and the Lumos 2006 conference with many great memories and new friends. And to this day, I'm still friends with a bunch of them on Facebook!

Later that year, Katie and I attended our first Yule Ball concert a few days before Christmas at the Middle East Nightclub in Cambridge, MA.  Two of the bands that we'd watched in Las Vegas were performing: Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys.  We had so much fun!  Katie and I even got our pictures taken with one of the "Dracos" we had met at Lumos.  (Plus, he recognized us!)

The following summer, it was the summer of Harry Potter.  In preparation for the final book's release, the Scholastic Knight Bus was on tour and stopped in Boston.  A few weeks later, on July 11, 2007, the Order of the Phoenix (movie 5) was released.  I was there right at midnight, soaking in every second of magic with my fellow Potterheads.

On July 21, 2007 came the day I'd looked forward to (and kind of dreaded) for years.  I was in Boston at college for the summer, so I pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book 7) at the Barnes and Noble bookstore at the Prudential Mall.  My friend Sam was also going there to get her copy, so we made plans to go together.

In the afternoon, there was a huge celebration where they turned Harvard Square into "Hogwarts Square".  A bunch of the Wizard Rock bands were all performing a free concert so I went to that to check it out.  The square was completely packed full of Harry Potter fans... it was really cool to see everyone together!

Late that night, Sam and I stood in the long line to get into the bookstore.  Then, we waited inside until midnight when it was time for us to get our copies.  I was so excited to get my hands on it!  All I wanted to do was devour it, yet I never wanted it to end!

I went back to my studio apartment on campus and shut myself in my room.  I stayed up all night reading until the early morning.  I slept a few hours, then dove back in.  I actually had a friend's bachelorette party to go to the next day, and I made all of the ladies swear to no spoilers.  I went to her party, went out dancing with the girls and got myself back home to finish reading as soon as I was able to.

I remember sitting alone in my apartment reading for hours, stopping only to use the bathroom.  While reading, I occasionally snacked on lemon drop candies in honor of Dumbledore.  I finally finished the book in the early morning hours.  Then, I sat there on my bed for a few minutes stunned that it was over.  Surely there was more.  Tears were shed, but I was happy with how the book series I loved so much had ended.

Eventually I picked myself up off the floor... because there was still plenty of magic to look forward to.  Later that year, Katie came down to attend the 2007 Yule Ball at the Middle East Nightclub with me.  We had a ton of fun jamming out like usual.

In 2008 during the presidential election, I changed my Facebook profile picture to a photo that the Harry Potter Alliance (a non-profit organization) created showing my Gryffindor pride as well as my support for Barack Obama.

A little over a month later, Katie travelled down to Boston for our trip to the 2008 Yule Ball.  Unfortunately, I think that was the last Yule Ball we attended.  (After we both graduated from college, "real" jobs got in the way and it was harder to make it work.)

On July 15, 2009, the Half Blood Prince (movie 6) was released in theaters.  Of course, I was there at midnight with my fellow Harry Potter fans.  I loved going to all of those midnight movie releases so much.  The energy and excitement was magical.  Plus, some people had really great costumes!

In the Fall of 2009, the Harry Potter Exhibition arrived at the Museum of Science in Boston.  I was so excited to go see actual costumes and props from the movies.  I ended up going to the exhibit three times while it was in Boston: the first time was with my family on my actual birthday, once with Katie and one more time with Eliot and his sister Sara- who is also a huge Harry Potter fan.

It was so incredible to see all of the costumes up close.  They didn't allow photos in the exhibit, but it was incredible.  In many cases, you were close enough that you could touch them- but you weren't allowed to.  I remember standing there and marveling at the stitching, intricate beadwork and details that you couldn't even see in the movies.  

They also had many of the items and set pieces from the movies.  I remember Hagrid's hut with his giant chair.  They also had a display of Harry and Ron's beds in Gryffindor Tower.  But my favorite was the Great Hall.  It featured a Yule Ball display with one of the tables surrounded by the costumes they wore.  As the end of the hall, it had some of the professors costumes.  I absolutely loved being immersed in the wizarding world!

Of course, at the end of the exhibition, you exited through a gift shop.  Eliot, Katie, Sara and I definitely all grabbed a few things there during our trips!

If I thought the exhibition was cool, I had no idea what I was in for.  In the summer of 2010, Universal officially opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Naturally, I wanted to go, so in the fall of 2010, Eliot and I took our first solo trip to Walt Disney World and took one day of our trip to visit Universal to see the Harry Potter addition.

From the moment we entered under the gate, my jaw dropped.  This was the closet thing I've ever experienced like Disney that wasn't Disney, but it had the same air of "magic" around it.  There were moving pictures in the window displays of some of the Hogsmeade shops.  Moaning Myrtle was haunting the women's bathroom.  They had tons of fake owls sitting high above you in the Owlry.  The details were impeccable.

You could buy pumpkin juice or butterbeer.  Eliot and I actually had lunch at the Three Broomsticks!  I wrote postcards to our friends and family in the Owlry and had them stamped with the special US postal stamp from Hogsmeade.

I even went on the Forbidden Journey ride with Eliot.  It was incredibly intense and my stomach didn't like it one bit, but even I have to admit that it was a masterpiece.  (Just a masterpiece that I don't need go on again now that I've done it once!)

I left the park completely mesmerized and I couldn't wait to come back and visit it with a fellow Harry Potter fan.  (Eliot's a fan of Harry Potter, but he's never read the books and isn't as crazy about it as I am.)

On November 19, 2010, I went back to the movie theater to see Deathly Hallows Part 1 (movie 7).  I absolutely loved it, but I was so aggravated at the ending since I didn't want it to end!  However, I am glad they separated book seven into two separate movies.  They would have cut out too many details otherwise.

After what felt like for-ev-er... July 15, 2011 finally arrived and I excitedly went to the movie theater to see Deathly Hallows Part 2 (movie 8).  I absolutely loved it, but I was so sad to see the movie end.  This was the last one.  More tears were shed.

In September 2012, Eliot and I had our wedding at Walt Disney World.  Since we were all in Orlando, I made plans to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Katie and Sara.  Neither of them had been to it yet, and I was really excited to go with some fellow fans!  We had so much fun exploring, drinking butterbeer, eating at the Three Broomsticks and taking tons of photos!  (Read more about that day here.)

Of course, since then, Universal added their giant Diagon Alley addition to their Island of Adventure theme park next door.  The first (and so far only) time I experienced that was with Eliot and my travel agent friends during our KeyCon 2015 conference.  During KeyCon, we were split into different houses for our teams and I was on the Slytherin Team.  We got to explore the park as part of our conference and it was so much fun!

After the conference ended, Eliot and I spent an extra day there exploring.  I tried butterbeer ice cream.  I drank butterbeer.  We poked around the shops.  My favorite part was that I got my own wand... and not just any wand.  I got one of the wands that you can actually do magic with!  It has a sensor in it and when you make certain motions at certain locations, you actually make things happen at the park.  I loved it!  I had so much fun and did everything that I really wanted to while there.  (Read more here.)  But I'd love to go back again sooner than later as it's already been over 5 years!

Finally, my most recent Harry Potter adventure was when I went to see the Cursed Child play in San Francisco with Eliot's family in 2019 before we went to Reno, Nevada for New Years.  We all enjoyed it, but Sara and I were absolutely in heaven.  Neither one of us had read the play because we didn't want to spoil it and we were definitely surprised with how the first act ended!  I'd love to see it again sometime!

For the longest time, I haven't wanted my wizarding adventures to end.  I went through a grieving period after I finished reading the last book.  Then, I experienced that grief all over again after I watched the last movie.  But, as Harry Potter fans like to say, the wizarding fandom will never truly be gone, not as long as those who remain are loyal to it.  There are still plenty of magical adventures in store for me.

While I bought it, I never actually read my copy of the Tales of Beedle the Bard.  I also haven't seen any of the new Fantastic Beasts movies.  I'm not sure why I didn't go see them in theaters... I guess part of me didn't want to get emotionally invested in them only to have them end too.  But I do plan on seeing them eventually.

There are also other things to do.  I've only scratched the surface of going into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal.  I'd love to go back and spend a few days there to really explore the shops and take pictures around the theme parks.  Plus, I've always thought it would be fun to get dressed up in wizard gear and take photos!

And someday, I'd also love to see Platform 9 3/4 in London and do a Harry Potter movie location tour around England.  Plus, there's also the official studio tour!

My love of the wizarding world still glows strong inside of me like a patronus.  In twenty years, this book series has given me amazing opportunities.  Plus, I've met so many incredible people and made lots of magical memories... all because of a boy wizard.

Happee Birthdae Harry!!!  (If you know, then you know.)  ⚡️△⃒⃘lways ⚯͛⚡️

Friday, July 30, 2021

Fun Find: Harry Potter Disney Memes

Happy Friday friends!  Tomorrow is Harry Potter's birthday and I thought it would be fun to do a wizard themed blog post today.  Those of you who have been around here for a while know how much I love Harry Potter... and I'm not alone.  There are a bunch of people who love the wizarding world along with our love of all things Disney.  

One of my favorite things is when people combine the two fandoms.  Since Universal added the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to both of their US theme parks, it's easier to make the leap.  In Florida, Harry Potter doesn't live too far away from the mouse.  A lot of people visit both parks while they vacation in Orlando.  For years, Eliot and I have been making wizard themed mouse ears for those who are fans of both parks.  (I have definitely worn my Harry Potter 3D printed mouse ears while visiting Universal!)

I always joked that my new goal is to become a princess because I never got my letter to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Today, I wanted to share another fun way that Disney and the wizarding world have been combined... memes.

Disney and Harry Potter memes always make me laugh out loud.  (Trust the internet to always find a way.)  So today's post is a bunch of those funny memes.  Enjoy!!!

The wand does lend itself to the old Disney Channel commercials.

I have to admit, when I first heard that Universal was building the Wizarding World of Harry Potter... I was pretty intrigued.  I still think it's absolutely immersive and amazing!

"It's the circle of life.  And it moves us all... from despair and hope..." 

IMO: The Weasleys are too good to have Hans counted amongst their family.

There are a lot of openings for nose jokes... so I started with Olaf.

The internet seems to love inserting Disney characters into the Harry Potter world.

I don't think I actually watch them like this, but I am rather fond of the eight movies.

If these rules worked... Voldemort would definitely have a nose.

Ariel, a Weasley?  I could get behind that.  (Princess and a witch... I gotta get on that.) 

"In Azkaban!"  When this meme first came out... I laughed so hard because it's true!!! 

I told you the nose thing left a lot of openings for jokes.

"Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells... a prince in disguise!!!"

I feel like this one is personally calling me out.  I have a very specific skill set. 

Finally, I had to finish with my favorite Harry Potter meme... this one inspired this post.

I hope you enjoyed this fun and lighthearted post combining my love of Disney and Harry Potter!  These definitely made me laugh when I found them online.  I hope they made you laugh too!  Have a magical weekend everyone!  ⚡️△⃒⃘lways ⚯͛⚡️

Please Note: I did not make any of these memes and I don't claim ownership of the photos or the jokes.  Most of them I've seen uncredited on Facebook or Pinterest from other people who have shared them.