Thousands Turn Up For Kent’s PotterFest

The Squirrel With Attitude statue downtown gets in the Potter spirit.

Harry Potter fans rejoice! The beloved series lives on. On Sunday July 31st, the new Harry Potter book from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, came out. The Saturday before, downtown Kent’s Acorn Alley transformed into Diagon Alley. The shops became book favorites such as Off The Wagon which turned into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Tree City & Pastry which became The Three Broomsticks.

The sidewalk sign outside Tree City Coffee & Pastry.

Thousands showed up for the event, lining up outside shops for special treats such as the Butterbeer Ice Cream Floats and Chocolate Frogs being offered at Popped! (Which, for the day, became Honey Dukes and Florean Fortesque’s Ice Cream Parlor). The alley itself sported signs in each shop window boasting a recognizable Harry Potter shop — some more creative ones being Pettigrew’s Pitas and the Cheese and Mead Cauldron. The Hometown Bank Plaza became The Gringott’s Bank Plaza, complete with costume contests and live music for those attending.

Events for adults and children alike went on throughout the evening, such as Potions lessons for adults at the Venice Bar and Defense Against The Dark Arts shows in the Acorn Alley Plaza. Separate costume contests for children and adults fostered an atmosphere of creativity for those attending the event. Many people used the occasion to dress up, from putting on outfits to show their house pride to getting creative and recreating a character from the books or movies.

(R to L) Rebecca, Gage, Margo, Zoey, and Hava recreate movie favorites.

These events all culminated in the midnight release of the book at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. People were lining up outside of the store for hours prior to

One vendor’s unique means of displaying their handmade bracelets.

check out the store’s unique items — including year-round Harry Potter merchandise. The city organizers, Main Street Kent, pre-sold shirts designed specially for the event and other vendors from around the area came to town and set up tables to sell handmade Harry Potter merchandise from the Potter-inspired soaps that Maiden Moon Apothecary sold to the custom metal work that Cable Creations sold, along with teaching people how to safely work with metal stamping.

The event was a collaboration between Main Street Kent and the ideawoman behind the Potterfest event itself, Michelle Sahr of Off The Wagon. Sahr had ordered the new book for sale at her store. “I thought ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have a midnight release party?’” She said of the decision to host Potterfest. “So, that’s kind of where we started with it.” From the beginning, Sahr asked Main Street Kent — an organization that is, according to its website, “focused on the revitalization of downtown Kent, OH” — to be a part of the festivities. “They’re good with putting on big events, so, we got the whole downtown district involved,” said Sahr of involving Main Street Kent in the project.

People line up outside of Off The Wagon and make their way down Acorn Alley.

Due to the revitalization projects downtown Kent has undergone over the past few years, the area played a perfect setting for the event. Store owners, most with longtime ties to the Kent area, were happy to participate. Cass Mayfield, the part owner of Mckay-Bricker Framing and Black Squirrel Gifts, has lived in the Kent area for most of her life and, despite not knowing much about Harry Potter, was happy to help the city out with the festival. “I don’t even know what to expect,” she said in the week leading up to the event. “But, we’re game.”

Many visitors to the city admitted they hadn’t spent much time downtown, but were interested in coming back after Potterfest to find out what the shops offer on a normal day. On any given day, the city offers many niche and unique shops and eateries, as well as a lively atmosphere. The park down next to the Cuyahoga River sees many visitors throughout both the summer and winter, it’s hiking trails spanning in both directions along the riverbed. Throughout the year, Main Street Kent hosts other large events in the city, from a Wine & Cheese Festival to live musical acts almost every weekend.

For more information on upcoming events in Kent, you can check out Main Street Kent’s calendar of events.