Harry Potter enthusiasts unite in Ithaca this Halloween weekend, Via Core77
Commonly touted as one of the best college towns—or places to retire—Ithaca, NY has had its fair share of press. Until last year, it was not considered a Harry Potter mecca. However, the surprising success of a community-driven, themed weekend in 2015 quickly changed that.
Developed and launched within two short weeks during the month of October, the inaugural Wizarding Weekend festival was created to celebrate a love of Harry Potter and drive a little late fall business to downtown merchants. The handful of participating vendors situated in a funky little alleyway originally hoped for 200 guests. Once word got out and over 8,000 people planned to attend the afternoon festival celebrating all things wizarding, they had to swiftly design a larger experience.
Fast forward one year later, and the same core group of entrepreneurs—a chocolate maker, a local energy provider, an urban developer, an electric bike pioneer—are anticipating another record breaking turnout. This time, they’ve enlisted an area design team to help add elements of interaction and theatrical staging to the event. Wizarding Weekend is planned for four days of experiences. From Character Brunches and Potion Classes to Quidditch Games on electric cargo bikes—the stage (i.e. Ithaca’s downtown) must be set to match this expanded itinerary.
The all-volunteer, community based event reached out to St. John Design Group (SDG) to lead the charge of creating several interactive exhibits to be placed throughout the festival’s locations. The company’s founder, Pete St. John, is an industrial designer who started his career as a theatrical set designer. He loves Harry Potter and regularly sets aside part of his team’s client load for community based projects at low or no cost. Festival organizers felt confident this relationship would be a perfect fit.
After accepting the design challenge, SDG went to work determining how to create elements that fit the following protocol: embodies the spirit and magic of the event, is interactive enough to entertain and delight large crowds, can withstand lots of kid activity and can be built on time and on budget. In other words, all volunteer build labor and five compelling exhibits for under $2,000—Go!