Downtown Kent transforms into Harry Potter world

Shamus Clavin,10, and Hannah Clavin,16, pose for a picture outside of Diagon Alley during the Kent Potterfest in downtown Kent on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

Cameron Gorman

Large crowds of witches, wizards, creatures and “muggles” descended on the streets of downtown Kent on Saturday for Main Street Kent’s first ever PotterFest.

The festival, which took place from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., was a celebration of the widely acclaimed children’s book series “Harry Potter,” by J.K. Rowling, as well as a release party for the debut of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a stage script by Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.

Those interested in purchasing the story upon its release were able to reserve a copy to pick up at Kent State’s mobile bookstore, stationed in Acorn Alley.

Kent resident Taylor MacAdam attended the festival with her sisters and mother. They planned on buying the new story when the clock struck midnight.

“(I’ve read) all of (the books) a couple of times,” Emma MacAdam said. “I like (how) it’s really detailed, and it makes it really good.”

All three sisters were dressed in Potterthemed garb.

“(My sisters say) my hair is always frizzy like Hermione’s, so, I was like, why not be Hermione,” she said.  

Before the midnight release, attendees of the festival were invited to participate in activities such as a scavenger hunt, magician performances and Potter-themed photo booths.

Among those dressed for the occasion were Morgan Nagy and Alexiss Villano from Hubbard, Ohio.

“(‘Harry Potter’ is) so interesting, and it captures your attention with a different world you can, like, step into,” Nagy said.

“It’s the characters—you can just get lost in them, and it’s a lot of fun,” Villano said.

Downtown Kent itself was also transformed, with several areas renaming themselves after locations from the books.

Diagon Alley (Acorn Alley), was the site of many attractions, including Origami and kid’s potions classes.

More than 25 downtown shops and business also participated. The Venice Cafe became the Leaky Cauldron, Tree City Coffee was Three Broomsticks, and Popped became Honey Dukes and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, among many others.

Each business served its own specialty food, drink or product, such as Popped’s Butterbeer ice cream and Pettegrew Pita (Pita Pit)’s wormtail pitas.

Hometown Bank Plaza became Gringott’s Bank Plaza, and was host to live music and costume contests for both kids and adult attendees, like Debbie and Dale Korman.

“We have a son who is 14 years old—very into Harry Potter—so we brought him down to enjoy the festivities,” Korman said. “We knew there would be a crowd, so we came earlier.”

The weather, cloudy at first, cleared up as the evening progressed, making way for one of the largest events of the summer.

Though the lines were long and the sidewalks crowded, enthusiasm for the Potter world was evident in the effort put into costumes.

Kent State alumnus Charles Shick was one of numerous attendees who stayed until midnight for the release of “The Cursed Child.”

“I decided, you know, it’s about time I come back and visit, and what better excuse,” Shick said.

Shick has been a fan of the book series since he was in grade school, he said.

“It just kind of captured me, brought me into a new universe and got me interested in reading again, and I’ve just kind of been going with it,” Shick said. “It’s been there my entire life.”

Contact Cameron Gorman at [email protected]