Sunday, June 15, 2014

Program: Harry for the Holidays

In January 2013, our library hosted an extremely successful Harry Potter event. We took a school holiday in early January and created an afternoon of Potter-themed activities. We had excellent attendance across a range of ages and lots of positive feedback. Since the majority of the youth services staff consists of Harry Potter fans, there was no question we'd be hosting another event this January. Here's what we did this time around!

Diagon Alley giveaway - we created some awesome gift baskets with a variety of prizes, including Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, butterbeer, bookmarks, posters, and copies of some of the books. Everyone who attended our event could enter to win and our winners were thrilled with their prizes.

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean Tasting Station - this was a very simple station, but I imagine it was highly amusing to watch (I was busy in a separate area throughout our entire event). We simply provided a selection of Bertie Bott's jelly beans for sampling. Of course, those brave enough to sample wouldn't know what flavor they were going to get - peach? ear wax? vomit? I would have loved to have seen reactions at this one!

Sorting Hat - once again, our sorting hat came to life to sort eager wizards into their houses. This time, I tried to go the extra step and wrote some short rhymes for each house, varying them slightly with each child. I'm not sure if all the kids really appreciated this little bit of extra work I put in, but I thought it added a slightly more authentic touch. Regardless, I love how excited they get hearing me shout their house assignment.

Transfiguration - this year, we decided to master the art of transfiguration. This was accomplished through face painting. I'm amazed at the lasting popularity of face painting and it was no exception here, even amid the many other activities we had to offer.

Dangerous Creatures Hunt - we run scavenger hunts fairly often in our children's department and they are so easy to do, it seems like a no-brainer for a big event such as this. Those who found all the dangerous creatures were rewarded with a tiny chocolate wizard's hat.

Crafts - this year, we offered House bracelets, Pygmy Puffs, and book hedgehogs. We did the book hedgehogs in the summer and they were very popular, so putting a Potter-y spin on them was easy enough. House bracelets were made with embroidery floss in House colors and a simple pattern. The Pygmy Puffs were oversized pompoms in a variety of colors with various wizarding accessories (wands, capes, hats, etc.). They were adorable and very easy to make!

Photo booth - we set up a very easy photo opportunity near our children's desk. We created a background with streamers in Gryffindor and Slytherin colors and provided a number of props - Mad Eye Moody's eye, House ties, owls, the Triwizard cup, and more. Photo booths have become a very popular and easy part of our large-scale events.

Quidditch - unfortunately, I can't provide a lot of information on how our Quidditch tryouts ran as I was otherwise engaged while they were held. From pictures, it certainly seems like all involved had a fabulous time trying their hand at the wizarding world's most popular sport.

Astronomy for Wizards - a simple astronomy lesson, focusing on stars and constellations that share names with people and places in the Harry Potter world. One of my coworkers had already created this lesson, so this was another pretty easy session to run.

Triwizard Tournament - this is where I spent the majority of the afternoon (after my duties as Sorting Hat were fulfilled, of course). This was my pet project, the thing I'd been talking about since our last Harry Potter event. I'd seen on a listserv someone mention that they had held a Triwizard Tournament as part of their Potter event and immediately, I thought that sounded awesome, particularly as we wanted to make this year's event even better than the first. I had big dreams for how amazing this tournament would be. In reality, it didn't quite live up to my expectations, but I think the kids still had fun with it. Our Tournament consisted of three trials, just like in the books. Champions would enter one at a time after depositing their names in the Goblet of Fire (though I had to speed things along pretty quick as the line to enter the Tournament grew rapidly). Champions were instructed to "follow the spiders" to each stage. Their first task was to defeat Aragog. Yes, I really did create a giant spider and his web and set it up in our library to menace children. I couldn't have done it without my coworkers, but it turned out pretty awesome, I think. Champions had to hit Aragog with the Draught of Living Death (as represented by mini-marshmallows) before moving on to stage two. Here, they had to match wits with a teacher (one of our teen volunteers, who got VERY into the part) by answering a trivia question. I am consistently surprised by how many kids show up to our program with little to no knowledge of the thing we are celebrating that day, and this event was no exception. Some of our champions couldn't answer any of the questions, so I had to institute a 'three chances then move on' rule, regardless of whether they answered a question right or not. The final stage was the successful casting of a Patronus charm, facing off against a Dementor. Yes, I also made a very creepy Dementor, who currently resides on my colleague's desk. I set the mood with lighting as well. Once again, I was surprised by the number of kids who didn't know how to cast the Patronus charm, but I helped them. Every kid who completed the Triwizard Tournament was rewarded with a Patronus - a small plastic creature painted silver and wrapped in Dementor wrappings. The kids loved seeing what their Patronus would be. So, as I said, I think the kids had a great time with it; I had just hoped for more theatricality, I guess.

Costumed staff - not an attraction, really, but I think it's important to note that all staff working the day of the program were costumed. It helped identify us as members of the library staff and also it adds a really fun and exciting element to the program. I dressed as Professor Trelawney and I was a big hit, if I do say so myself.

Once again, we had an extremely successful event but now we find ourselves wondering: where do we go from here? We took our first event to the extreme this year and we are all curious as to whether it's possible to top it next year. I guarantee we'll try, though.

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