KENT, Ohio — Magic is in the air as downtown Kent transforms into a "wizardly wonderland," with Wizardly World, a Harry Potter-themed weekend, set to return Friday and Saturday.
“We started in 2016 with a release of 'The Cursed Child' so we decided to have a really fun wizard weekend, a wizard day, a festival all dedicated at that time to Harry Potter," said Michelle Sahr, owner of Off the Wagon Shop. "So we're doing it again this year and it's going to be a lot of fun."
The event was intended to be a small gathering of local Harry Potter fans, but like the Engorgement Charm in the books, the wizarding event in Kent grew and grew.
"Let's do a little event is what you said, let's do a little event,'" said Heather Malarcik, Executive Director at Main Street Kent, to Sahr as they discussed decorations. "And I was like, 'Okay, that's fun, yeah,' and then there were thousands and thousands of people here."
Now an annual tradition for many across the state, and some from outside Ohio, Wizardly World had a bit of a setback, like many other things, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of things in the state due to the virus temporarily petrified the event, but there are high hopes for this year.
"This year we're kind of bringing it back to really focus on the businesses and have a Vendor Village so people can walk around and shop and buy some handcrafted things that are on theme with the event," Malarcik said.
Among those businesses is Popped!, which has truly transfigured into the Hogwarts Express treat trolley.
"We made Wizardly Wands, which are chocolate-dipped pretzels; over here we've got some frogs, of course; golden snitches, which are actually oreos covered in milk chocolate, but you can catch them here; fruits of the Forbidden Forrest, of course," said Gwen Rosenberg, owner of Popped! "And this year which is new is our Buttery Beer Crunch popcorn."
All of the candy made at Popped! is from scratch, and Rosenburg is able to use her creativity is fun ways each year during Wizardly World—which makes her shop a popular destination for all the visiting wizards and muggles alike.
"The crowd that comes out—and it's a big crowd—the crowd that comes out are some of the absolute nicest customers, and everyone is really excited and they're completely into it," Rosenburg said. "It's like little kids and grown adults and everybody is walking around so they come in and it's usually like oos and ahhs and we have the music going from the movie. You can't go overboard. You can't dress up too much, you can't have too many decorations, you can't have too many special wizardly treats."
Businesses in the area have been busy prepping for the weekend and on Thursday, volunteers hit the streets to begin decorating for the big event. Acorn Alley becomes Dragon Alley, Dan Smith Community Park transforms into the Forbidden Forrest, and Erie Street will house a Vendor Village full of Harry Potter-themed handcrafted goods for sale from local businesses.
"We'll start by hanging some banners up from the poles that are hanging underneath the business signs. We'll do some other window decorations and then there will be dementors hanging from the lights throughout the alley," said Malarcik.
Costume contests will be held, restaurants will feature special menus, a 5 3/4 fun run will get people moving, a bar crawl will offer some adult Butterbeers, the Bell Tower Ball will mirror the Triwizard Tournament's Yule Ball. There isn't a shortage of things to do.
"The Hometown Bank Plaza will have the Quiddich Team from Kent State will be there doing an activity, Kent Junior Moms will be doing wand making," Malarcik said. "They're doing Harry Potter trivia one night, they're going to have an herbology class one night so it's really just spread out."
Wizardly World will turn Acorn Alley into a scene from the Harry Potter series, but the enchantment spans all over the city.
"It's not just here in Acorn Alley, it's the whole downtown transformed into a Wizardly Wonderland," Sahr said.
Wizardly World takes place in downtown Kent on Friday and Saturday. To learn more, click here.
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