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Friday, September 1, 2023

Happy Return To Hogwarts Day!

The last few months have been pretty busy, getting ready for several Potter events and visiting Hogwarts while in Universal Hollywood. Now, I'm on to planning next year's party and working on Yule Ball for our Fandom Forward chapter. So, let's have a look back at my magical year that's prepped me for Back to School time:

Let's have a look back at my magical year that's prepped me for Back to School time.

In June, we took a road trip to Los Angeles, since we didn't get to go earlier in the year. We hit up Super Nintendo World (in Universal) for Eric's early birthday, and I took a little time to savor a Butterbeer and then stroll through Hogwarts to take in Forbidden Journey. 

I had to take a moment to visit one of my favorite characters, The Sorting Hat, then I went on a journey with Harry, browsed Filch's Emporium, said hello to Buckbeak and then we took a turn through all our favorite shops.

July was a whirlwind of working on crafts for my annual party and planning Wizarding Weekend. Every year the non-profit I work with, PDXpelliarmus, works with a local hotel that used to be a school, we celebrate Harry Potter's birthday with a 3-day event that includes costume contests, trivia, movies, a Horcrux hunt, themed food and drinks, and local magical vendors that make up Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and Hogsmeade. All our profits go to charity and we collect school supplies. On Saturday I dressed as the Knight Bus conductor on vacay and Sunday I supported Ron's fave Quidditch team. We made friends, we made memories, and most importantly we made a lot of money for Boys & Girls Aid, which helps foster kids in Portland get all the school supplies they need (and other necessities). 

Generally, the next weekend is full of more Potter stuff, because that's when I have my annual party, but we put it off a few weeks this year. Next up, we had our traditional Harry Potter tea at a local tea shop (Clockwork Rose) with friends. I scrambled the night before to put something together, because we always wear new outfits, and we showed up as employees from Honeydukes and Wiseacre's. Tea was fabulous. The company was wonderful. The atmosphere was magical. You can read more about previous years here.

And now, let's get to my 9th annual Potter party. The theme this year was Lockhart Throws Harry a Valentine's Birthday, because I thought it was funny. I asked folx to bring a handmade Valentine for either Harry or Lockhart for House Points, and though we had a small turnout this year (fair, since I didn't hype it up or post the date until much closer to the party date than normal, so lots of people were out of town), almost everyone brought a valentine and they were so creative. 

Every year I come up with N.E.W.T.-level trivia questions from the books and we then do two other games. It was going to be warmer than usual, which is also why I plan it as an evening party, when it's shadier in the backyard, so I chose some low effort games. The first was called Transfiguration, and I stole it from a previous event I went to. You give each team playdough and a cauldron full of clues. I had easier ones that were worth 1 point and then harder ones, like the Knight Bus, that were worth 3, and they took turns transfiguring their dough and guessing. I gave them a 5-minute time limit to get as many as they could. (I also gave each table a Transfiguration mat, which was a piece of laminated cardstock, just to save my tablecloths and give them a blank surface.) This went over really well, but not as well as Pixie Catch.

This was one of those games I thought would be stupid and/or not work at all, but it turned out to be the most popular, so I would definitely say this is a great one for all ages. Each team had 3 minutes total to catch as many "pixies" as possible. I gave them a "practice" pixie - it was white instead of blue - to figure out how they worked for 5 minutes before we officially started playing. Those pixies are wily and unpredictable and hard to catch. I purchased three sets of "magic butterflies" and butterfly nets. Teams with 2 people got 90 seconds each to catch and throw, and teams with 3 people got 60 seconds each, so everyone got a chance to do both. I wanted this to last longer than a previous game from last year, so I made each team go separately.

Lastly, we brought back our raffle. Throughout the year, I buy/collect magical items and then raffle them off for charity. I feel like Harry would be proud to know a group of fun people who are kind and charitable. We can party, but it's ultimately in celebration of Harry, so giving back is always on my mind. In previous years, we've done a sock drive and book drive, but the raffle is always more popular, because it's exciting and people go home with (more) stuff. 

The key to this is to give guests a tiered ticket system - we do $1 each, 6 tickets for $5, or 25 tickets for $20 - and let them give cash or Venmo/Paypal. Once I pull a winning ticket, I toss all the non-winners in a big cauldron, have someone pull from that at the end of the regular raffles, and the person who wins the big pull goes home with a bigger prize. I've done House copies of books, until I stopped giving money to The Dark Lord, and a handmade broom by a local artisan. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something you know people will be excited to win.

Throughout the party, I barked out love poems, as only a grumpy cupid dwarf can, and doled out points. At the beginning of each party everyone gets their own handmade wand that has a tag attached with a wood type, core, and properties. I make these myself with hot glue and dowels and paint, but they are all different. I put them handle down in a cauldron and people feel around for the wand that chooses them. After that we do Sorting. The hat is for show and people choose a pin from another cauldron (it's a theme) and that's the house they sit with. Every year it's different, so you end up with new teammates. But we have plenty of mingle and food time before, during, and after, so everyone talks to each other.

At the end of the party, before we announce House Cup winners, everyone gets a goodie bag, which I try to theme to the party. This year everyone got a signed photo of Lockhart, some Cupid Crystals (peach heart gummies in heart-shaped containers), a chocolate frog with cards, and these DIY sticker sheets. After I announce the winners (woohoo Hufflepuff!), I give out the House Cup, which are different goodie bags with a trophy in it. This year, I forgot to take pics of them, but I used my Cricut to cut out ribbon silhouettes out of cardstock and then added little mirrors to them, because Lockhart is vain.

We cap the night off with everyone leaving a memory in the Pensieve. I hand out slips of paper and people write down their favorite party memory or favorite thing about Harry Potter and toss it into the Pensieve. It serves and a little fun reminder of things that happened each year, and it's anonymous, so I mostly get cute little notes with no names. This year, someone wrote down their "top 6", and I was very impressed they got it all on that little piece of paper. Everyone else's was about how fun catching pixies was. LOL! After the party, all the memories are put into a folder with the year, so we can do it all again next time. 

Okay, thanks for indulging in my Pottermania over the last couple months. I hope you all have a great trip back on the Hogwarts Express. Have you played any good party games that can be adapted to be magical?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I may be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through any of them. Your purchases allow me to keep running this blog and bringing you the non-Potter content you crave, so thanks in advance and happy partying.

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