As mentioned in my previous post, the Harry Potter festivities I’m the sorriest to have missed last week were those that took place last Friday in Sandwich, Mass. Wonderful booksellers Vicky Uminowitz and Elizabeth Merritt of Titcomb’s Bookshop shared their description of the town’s Harry Potter Day activities, which I’ve reprinted below, complete with photos (many more of which will soon be appearing on their website). I think the town of Sandwich deserves a special prize for being so willing to share their resources, talents and genuine enthusiasm for the celebration of a book!
Here’s what Vicky and Elizabeth had to say:
We had such a fun Friday!! The day began with an opening ceremony at our 1850’s Old Town Hall, which had been transformed by town hall employees into a fabulous Ministry of Magic. Professor Trelawney led the ceremony, our town manager read a proclamation and the Weasley family (children’s librarians from the Public Library) arrived in an antique car from Heritage Museums and Gardens. People met Hagrid’s Fang, a Neopolitan mastiff as featured in the movies!
Next to town hall is our 1600’s gristmill, which became the Shrieking Shack, where an incredible Professor Lupin lurked in werewolf costume – jumping out from the machinery to scare people. Hagrid could be found at the 1600’s Hoxie House where the MSPCA taught about "Care of Muggle Creatures". These museums opened their doors to people at no cost and the curators were delighted with their participation. Heritage Museum and Gardens featured programs all day, including a magician, an herbology class and a search through a maze to find the Tri-Wizard Cup. The Thornton Burgess Society taught potions classes throughout the day and the Sandwich Glass Museum opened their doors for a tour of the magic of glass.
The Wizard Express, run entirely by Sandwich High School librarians and their incredible students, including the entire football team, whisked 1,120 people on train rides from our little train station, complete with costumed characters, games and Platform 9 3/4. In addition, we had 3 Knight Buses (2 trolleys and a school bus) running all around town to take people to their destinations, with characters from the books riding along and interacting with visitors. Every penny raised from the trip will support the high school library, which recently learned that their book and materials budget for next year is $0!!
At the library, people were sorted into houses and the Sandwich Mom’s Group provided free face painting, several crafts for children and Madam Pomfrey, who offered bandages, sunscreen and bug repellent to visitors. Our bookshop had parchment invitations to Hogwarts which children could sign with a quill pen and ink and a fabulous Divination Course run by two expert volunteers. Pumpkin juice and spider legs were served to all. The Sandwich Women’s Group held a bookmark contest at our 3 elementary schools. They printed up thousands of laminated bookmarks, which were distributed free at several locations in town.
Throughout town, businesses were transformed into Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade businesses. We distributed Marauder’s maps encouraging people to visit each business where they had to find a Hedwig owl and get their map stamped. The owls will be the prizes. Five restaurants offered a variety of Harry Potter meals, did some incredible decorations and were jammed all day. This was a great success and was coordinated through the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce. A highlight for me was the performance of gymnastics by the Beauxbatons, a group of Junior Olympic gymnasts, and a Quidditch match by middle school students.
The whole town came together in an extraordinary way to celebrate our community and reading. Almost everything was free and funded with grants from the Kiwanis Club of Sandwich, the Sandwich Visitor Services Board and a local business. The Kiwanis grant included 50 train tickets and 50 copies of the book to be given to children who would not otherwise be able to afford them. Thousands attended and so many people commented on the wonderful sense of community they saw as people came together to make this possible.
The day ended with midnight parties at the Sandwich Public Library and at our store. Somehow, our amazing and very small team managed to provide Flourish and Blotts at both! At the library visitors could have their picture taken in the "Living Portrait" featuring Phineas Nigellus Black, knit hats for house elves and sign an S.P.E.W. petition, make a jeweled goblet, take a ride on the Knight Bus, and stroll down the "Hall of Recall" with objects from each book, including a pensive! At our shop we had tea leaf reading, crafts, trivia, a fabulous cake shaped like a 3D Hogwarts which was donated by a customer, and a wonderful countdown to midnight.
Of course, we were open at 7:00 the next morning!!