Hogwarts opened a temporary campus at Emporia’s Gufler Mansion Friday night, with classes attended by muggles of all ages.
Participants could explore classrooms, take lessons, partake in a feast in the great hall with its floating candles, compete in Harry Potter trivia and solve riddles to track down the golden snitch.
Natalie Borja, age 11, was the one to solve the puzzle and catch the snitch.
“We were in the great hall and it said, ‘the Chamber of Secrets might be open, you may need to dry off before exiting,’” she said.
Borja and her mom, who both took part in the event, found the snitch under one of the bathroom sinks.
“I’m pumped,” Natalie Borja said. “I’m very excited. I just love Harry Potter and ever since I’ve seen all the movies, I’ve just wanted — I’ve just been obsessed and now I’ve found the golden snitch and I feel like it was meant to be.”
Families with young children weren’t the only ones who took part in the festivities.
Stacey Johnston and her husband Alex dressed up for the event — complete with handmade wands and a light-up Triwizard Cup — just for the sheer fun of it all.
Though she wasn’t in the intended age group for the books when they were released, she picked them up.
“I heard people talking about them and I started reading them and I just really, really liked them,” she said. “They were just a good story. A good, solid story — very fun, exciting.”
They had a lasting impact.
Alex Johnston didn’t take to the books right away, he said, because he dislikes jumping on popular bandwagons. So he was a holdout until promotions began for the first movie, which he thought looked like fun. He picked up the books and couldn’t put them down.
“Anything that’s massively popular, I just usually kind of stay away from it,” Alex Johnston said. “This was one thing I couldn’t stay away from.”
The Johnstons had a Harry Potter-themed wedding reception, Stacey Johnston said.
“Coming to something like this is right in the wheelhouse,” she said.
Susan Lane and Brad Cochennet, who own Gufler Mansion and have made great efforts to restore it, held the event in part with the hope it would bring the public in to see the historic building and what they’ve done with it.
“We’ve been wanting to do a themed event to have a wider variety of people get to come into the mansion and experience it,” Lane said. “I raised four children and three of them are big Harry Potter fans, so they were the inspiration behind it.”
The popularity of the series brought a broad range of people through the mansion’s doors Friday night. Lane said she believes the mansion itself has a magical feel about it — with or without wand-waving children and a robed potion-maker in the basement. She wanted to share a bit of the home’s history with the public.
“We feel like we have something special to offer,” Lane said. “Having the opportunity to bring other people in and let them enjoy it and create events that can bring the community together.”
The mansion hosts weddings and special events, but Lane said she’s pleased she and Cochennet were able to create and host an event of their own. Lane said they hope to host more themed events in the future.
Setting up their temporary Hogwarts required months of planning and lots of help from the in-house operations manager, Maria Moylan.
“We had the idea originally right as school started back in the fall,” Lane said.
Moylan, a senior psychology major at Emporia State University, took on the project.
“She’s been hard at work for a while,” Lane said.
In all, the mansion housed, in its many rooms, Ollivander’s wand shop, an herbology class where people could take home starts to plant for themselves, a feast in the great hall with Harry Potter-themed foods, the room of magic, a charms class filled with floating feathers, a transfiguration class, a divination class, a potions class where students could mix their own kid-friendly, drinkable potions and defense against the dark arts, where students could duel.
“Most of our professors are off on holiday,” Lane said. “So the students get to wander about.”