‘Harry Potter’ event draws more than 2,500 museum visitors

Displaying her scarlet and gold tie, Georgia Isherwood got ready to craft her own magic wand out of pipe cleaners and feathers Saturday.

The 27-year-old stay-at-home mom from Gainesville wore her Gryffindor uniform to attend a “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”-themed event at the Florida Museum of Natural History.Isherwood said she has been a “Harry Potter” fan for 19 years.

“Anytime anything ‘Harry Potter’ is going on, I always have to go to it,” Isherwood said. “This is what I like to do when I’m not with the kids.”


Isherwood was one of more than 2,500 people dressed as wizards, witches and muggles who attended the event. They participated in answering “Harry Potter” trivia, completing a scavenger hunt, crafting their own wands and tasting oddly flavored jelly beans, similar to the candy the movies’ characters eat.

“It was definitely one of the highest-attended events in the past few years,” said Eve Rowland, a museum volunteer program assistant and the event’s main organizer.

To tie the event into “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the recent sequel to the “Harry Potter” series, participants matched real-life animals with similar magical beasts.

Six Gainesville high-school students with the museum’s Youth Leadership Board helped come up with ideas for the event. Rowland, a 19-year-old UF zoology freshman, said she needed the assistance since she knew nothing about “Harry Potter.”

As visitors arrived, they were sorted into one of the four “Harry Potter” houses — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin — scoring points for their houses with each activity. At the end, Gryffindor won.


Visitors bought specially designed snacks from the fantasy universe, including pretzels and walnuts shaped like cockroaches, or “cockroach clusters,” and non-alcoholic JellO shots representing “polyjuice potion.”

Ally Williams, a UF psychology and event management junior, said she loves “Harry Potter” because all types of people can relate to the story. The 20-year-old said it was the first time she attended a museum event.

“I like that there are a lot of people who seem excited, like-minded people,” she said.



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