Towns hope to keep Harry Potter magic
CINCINNATI Towns around the country that celebrate the release of each Harry Potter book arent ready to give up their wizarding wonderlands of Knockturn Alleys and Forbidden Forests even though the final book is about to debut.About 40 miles north of Cincinnati, organizers plan to keep Quidditch tournaments, magic shows and strolls down Diagon Alley continuing in some form in Wilmington, a city of about 12,000.This is our largest downtown event currently, and it brings a lot of people and money into downtown, said Steve Brown, executive director of Main Street Wilmington. We thought the 2005 event would draw quite a few people, but we never expected the 4,000 or more that showed up.Enthusiasts in small towns such as Poulsbo, Wash., and larger communities such as Oshkosh, Wis., and the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill. where 10,000 people turned out in 2003 are looking to the wildly popular Harry Potter movies, a theme park to open in Orlando, Fla., in 2009 and increasing fan conventions and conferences to keep the Potter energy flowing.Baraboo, Wis., got a head start, holding its first community Potter celebration July 7 in anticipation of the movie and book releases. Organizer Cindy Doescher says enthusiasm has already been so great that she expects a Potter party annually.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the seventh and final book in the J.K. Rowling series will be released at midnight July 21, accompanied by bookstore parties, community festivals and other Harry hoopla concocted for fervent fans around the world. The books have sold more than 325 million copies worldwide with translations into at least 64 languages, and sparked the movie series.The next movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is to open in U.S. theaters July 11, leaving two books not yet on the screen.Communities have reaped economic and other benefits from downtown extravaganzas. Hotels are filled with tourists. Residents turn out in large numbers often costumed to dine at a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or warily creep through a haunting Knockturn Alley amid skeletons and smoking potions. More people means more customers for local businesses.Princeton, Ill., a town of about 7,500 residents, drew 5,000 fans in 2005 and expects more than 7,500 this year. Sponsors say the celebrations also have deepened cooperation among businesses, civic groups and volunteers.Keeping some kind of celebration going here is a good possibility, said Lisa Putness, president of the Princeton Independent Business Alliance. Its been such a fun way to expose people to our downtown.A Potter celebration last year between book releases drew 2,500 fans on a rain-soaked day, and organizers see that as a sign that events could continue even without more books.Hudson, a city of about 23,000 in northeast Ohio, is preparing for more than 12,000 fans next month and talking about how to keep the celebrations going.Were definitely trying to come up with a way to expand the event beyond this year, perhaps wrapping it around our towns history while continuing the Harry Potter theme, said Debra Sherman, a spokeswoman for this years event.The Muggles (nonwizards) behind Wizarding Wilmington say Harry Potter reunions or an annual Halloween festival with a Harry Potter theme are possible ways of keeping the excitement over the schoolboy wizard alive in the rural city.Fans believe communities wont have any trouble attracting crowds to their festivals even after the series ends.There will always be new readers coming along and older fans who will still need their Harry Potter fix, said Ciaran Loughlin, 18, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, and is a senior staff member at http://www.mugglenet.com, a leading Harry Potter fan Web site. Interest will always be there because so much in these books is timeless and universal.That sentiment is echoed by American fans as they search for new Harry Potter activities.I think fans will be even more eager to get together for events since there wont be book releases to look forward to, said Brian Simms, 27, a member of the online fan club http://www.hp-ohio.com. Simms has taken up Quidditch a cross between dodge ball and Ultimate Frisbee in the non-wizard version that has become more and more popular with Potter fans.Another member of the Ohio fan club, Monica Rodabaugh, 44, believes the Harry Potter fan base will be as strong as those for the Star War and Star Trek films.Harry Potter fans will continue discussing the books online, Rodabaugh said. But they will always be looking for events where they can put on their costumes and interact with other fans face to face.