By Paula M. Riley
There were signs everywhere that something magical happened in Chestnut Hill last weekend. A line of customers at Zipf’s Candies, crowded streets, restaurants with long waits, registers ringing and thousands strolling the Avenue.
By all gauges, the Harry Potter Weekend, designed to compliment the Second Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Quidditch Cup Tournament at Chestnut Hill College, was a roaring success. More than 2,500 witnessed Chestnut Hill College’s Quidditch team win the Cup with a victory over Penn State.
In the business district, an estimated 4,000 came to participate in free Harry Potter-themed events. From Dumbledore’s (played by Brendan May) speech at the opening ceremonies on Friday through the costume parade
Sunday afternoon, Chestnut Hill was packed with diehard Harry Potter fans, their friends and parents.They explored stores and restaurants (each renamed based on the Harry Potter books) and enjoyed participating in various activities.
“What’s so great is that this weekend gave us something fun that parents and children could do together,” said Laura Woods, of Glenside. Although her children opted not to participate in Quidditch 101 at Norwood-Fontbonne, they loved watching 100 kids receive instruction and play with the Chestnut Hill College Quidditch team.
The pairing of the young residents and visitors with college players best illustrated why this weekend was such a success. It was all about partnership.
“We were thrilled to combine resources to bring a weekend of magic and fun to our community,” said college president, Sister Carol Jean Vale.
Those who organized the event said they had never before had the key institutions in the area collaborated so well with the commercial district in Chestnut Hill.
“From the college down to Night Kitchen, we were completely united,” said Mary Kate May, chair of the Steering Committee.
Visitors and locals enjoyed the Woodmere Art Museum Hay Maze, Harry Potter Scarecrow contest at Morris Arboretum, Wizards Chess at Jenks School and specials at area businesses and restaurants.
“Retailers and restaurants saw a huge upsurge in sales,” said Eileen Reilly, Chestnut Hill’s retail recruiter.
McNally’s was packed at the sold out Pub Crawl, O’Doodles reported a 30 percent increase in sales, Starbucks had its best day ever, and Penzey’s Spice and The Antique Gallery enjoyed high sales.
“This event introduced the commercial district to a huge group of customers well beyond the normal trade area,” Reilly said.
Gary Krauss came from Veron, N.J. with his 6-year-old daughter, Victoria. He, like many others, had never been to Chestnut Hill before.
“I’m really interested in history and would definitely come back,” he said.
Organizers said they were not only surprised by the distance from which people traveled (guests came from Virginia, New York and Pittsburgh ) to attend the weekend’s events, it was the sheer volume.
“The numbers absolutely blew us away,” May said. “We had no idea that so many families would be traveling from so far to attend our event.”
At Defense Against the Dark Arts class, featuring Stagecrafters’ actors and the College’s Mask & Foil theatre group, 300 kids learned how to cast spells and curses. With wands in the air, children called out spells as they sat on Stagecrafters’ side lawn.
Each event drew huge crowds and favorites included the Quidditch Training Camp and Scavenger Hunt which took 225 participants to 10 retailers/restaurants on the Avenue in search of clues.
With representation from the College, CHBA, local retailers, restaurateurs and community volunteers, the event’s steering Committee worked collaboratively for eight months preceding the event.
“I can’t say enough about the committee,” May said. “Each person did the work of five people.”
The Business Association was thrilled with the success.
“What an event!…Chestnut Hill shone as the wonderful, magical place that it truly is,” said Kate O’Neill of CHBA.
“It made me so proud to say that I live in Chestnut Hill,” said Teresa Araco Rodgers.
May hopes that this pride remains with residents and that weekend visitors return all year long and at next year’s Harry Potter weekend.
To view or purchase pictures of the weekend’s events, visit http://batesphotography.zenfolio.com/p294696183