First Potter in the Park is a hit

A.J. and Amber Schlicher with their 4-year-old daughter Vivian at Potter in the Park.
A.J. and Amber Schlicher with their 4-year-old daughter Vivian at Potter in the Park.

By Brett Milam

The Kathryn Stagge-Marr Community Park underwent a magical transformation over the Labor Day weekend. And to think, it almost didn’t happen.

Event organizer, Shannon Hill, a teacher at Goshen High School and the chairperson of the Friends of Goshen Park District, which “aid in the development and fundraising operations” of GPD, was pushing for years for a Potter-themed event.

“It’s kind of our job to keep it going,” Hill said.

The parks is unfunded, Hill said, with revenue coming from revenue drivers and donations.

“I’ve been telling people for two years, we need a Harry Potter festival,” she said.

Oddly enough, despite the global popularity of the brand among all demographics, Hill’s idea never gained traction until CincySavers got on board. Once that happened, the vendors and the food trucks poured in. And a magical event was born, taking place on Sept. 2 at the park.

It also helped to see the success of a Potter festival in Kent, Ohio in late July.

“My little prayer was, I wanted a successful event, but not a nightmare,” Hill said.

The rain, a lagging reminder of Hurricane Harvey’s power, tried to cast a spell on the activities, but event-goers would not be deterred: Hill and John Tuerck, another event-organizer, said more than 2,000 people came out throughout the day.

Event-goers had a plethora of activities, vendors and food to try out: there was a Horcrux hunt, complete with a graveyard and skeletons; the large dragon and spider, respectively; hayrides throughout the park, a bouncy house for the kids; Potter fanatics could also look at what their heart most desired in the Erised Mirror set up; and there was even a Golden Snitch Quidditch 5K, which saw racers from all over the United States participate and 400 in total at $40 per registration.

“The dragon is for sure the draw,” Tuerck said..

A.J. and Amber Schlicher came from near Winton Woods with their 4-year-old daughter Vivian, dressed for the part: A.J. was Professor Quirinus Quirrell from the first book, complete with a hideous depiction of Lord Voldemort on the back of his head; Amber was Professor Sybill Trelawney, who teaches Divination; their daughter was Luna Lovegood, known in the series as the eccentric reader of The Quibbler.

Rachel Mason with her daughter Bailey Drescher stand in front of the popular dragon attraction at the first Potter in the Park in Goshen Township, Sept. 2, 2017.

The family had also been to the Kent Potter festival.

“We like it,” Amber said. “We wish the weather was better. It’s nice that there’s a playground right in the middle.”

A.J., whose costume sent a buzz throughout the festival, said he liked that the vendors were actually selling things related to the event and authentic items at that.

As for why Professor Quirrell? It was time to shave his head, A.J. said, and this was a ready-made excuse.

“I saw it first on Pinterest,” Amber said.

When Hill and Tuerck sat down with The Sun, as the event was winding down and the darkness was coming, like a swarm of Dementors were nearby, the two were quick to say they already had the second iteration of the event on the calendar for next year. It’ll be Sept. 2 again, as well.

Tuerck added that they are already forming a committee for it.

“We had to change a lot of things because of the weather, but I liked the way it was,” Hill said.

Much of the promotion, if not all of it, was done through Facebook and word-of-mouth.

“It was just kind of meant to be,” Hill said. “Potter people come.”

Looking ahead to next year, with the success of the dragon, Tuerck and Hill are looking at getting a fire-breathing dragon. Or even a phoenix rebirth.