Category: Conventions (Page 1 of 4)

Hermione and Harry Potter Look Alikes

Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill – Pics and Tips

I’ve wanted to go to the Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill since a friend of mine shared it on Facebook a few years ago. After hearing about it only a couple times, THIS year I had multiple friends sharing it on my Facebook page or tagging me. I was already dying to go! So, as a late birthday outing for me, we went to the Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill.

I wore my favorite Quidditch shirt.

Nancy Basile in Gryffindor Quidditch Shirt

My favorite Gryffindor shoes and socks.

Gryffindor Shoes and Socks

And took my Harry Potter leather bag and Tomboy Togs Gryffindor pin.

Harry Potter Leather Bag

Before I Show You the Goods

Here’s the thing: Those poor Harry Potter festival planners had no idea what was about to rain down on their heads. Maybe they should have known. I mean, it was in Huffington Post and went viral on Facebook. Scores and scores of people descended on the cobblestone street of Chestnut Hill for the Harry Potter festival. There were so many people that, more than once, we were completely gridlocked. Not just in the car, which was fairly horrible, but bodily. As in, I’m standing in the street and I can’t move and I can’t see anything.

Harry Potter Festival Crowd

Too many people!

For instance, it took us about an hour to drive a mile, trying to get into Chestnut Hill. The dude in front of us had his driver-side window down, and his nasty Lucius Malfoy cane out the window, implying (according to my husband) that he could walk faster than drive. He was too right. It was only by the hand of Dumbledore that we got a parking space on the last street before the town was closed off. Someone pulled away right in front of us, as we were crawling along a side street.

Chestnut Hill Train Station

Chestnut Hill Train Station. No, I do not know that man.

I have that thing where crowds make me crazy. Like, panicky crazy. I tried to focus on getting from Horcrux station from the next, but it was kind of a nightmare. If I had been by myself, I probably would have stood in the long, long serpentine line to get a glass of butterbeer. But with my two hangry (yes, hangry) kids and husband in tow, my nerves were as frayed as the hem of Dobby’s towel.

Potter for President

That IS Daniel Radcliffe.

Thank goodness we went to the restroom at the local library (bless them) at the top of the street before we wound our way down. We probably waited about half an hour, but the lines at the very limited number of portable toilets were terribly lengthy.

Chestnut Hill Library

But They Meant Well

Here’s the other thing: The Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill was very well done. Someone, or more than one someone, in that town knows Harry Potter. There was something cool everywhere you looked. Here, a Triwizard (hay) Maze. There, a potions lesson (complete with smoky dry ice!). Businesses up and down the street were renamed, and many of them were festooned in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade-like decorations. 

Gringotts Bank Sign

Gringotts Bank Sign at the florist.

The problem with all these awesome locations was there was no way to know what was inside. Yes, I had a map, but even the map didn’t make it terribly clear what was going on where. Don’t get me wrong, there was a LOT going on. And I learned some lessons for next time. (Those are down below.) A lack of signage was the main problem. You didn’t know something existed until you were on top of it. Even then, you didn’t know if it was worth your time. For instance, the florist was decked out and had a clever sign, but once we got inside, there was nothing to do or see. They had a very nice shop, but I was there to yank a mandrake out of a pot or something, you know? So, I wasn’t willing to stand in line for half an hour outside “Ollivander’s Wand Shop,” just to get inside and find a table set up where I could color a picture of a wand.

Chestnut Hill Florist

Outside the Chestnut Hill Florist.

Back to how the Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill meant well! There was a main stage set up that had several cool happenings scheduled during the day. The kick off was Dumbledore’s greeting (which we missed while we were stuck in traffic). There were acrobats, a Defense Against the Dark Arts class, a Sorting ceremony and other Potter-related events.

Horcrux Stations were set up along the cobblestone street. At one, we made our own bookmark in Gryffindor colors. At another, we made an Owl Postcard. At a third, you could make a Harry Potter face mask to hold up in front of your own face. (The visage was not Daniel Radcliffe, but a local look-alike, for a variety of legal reasons, I’m sure.)

Horcrux Station

Horcrux Station

One of my friends said she was hoping for more vendors. She wanted to be able to purchase all things Harry Potter. I didn’t mind that there weren’t a lot of vendors. Goodness knows how much more crowded and chaotic it would have been! Admittedly, I’m not much of a shopper, so it’s very possible plenty of other people had been hoping to buy lots of merch.

Make a Harry Mask

That is not Dan Radcliffe!

Welcome to Hogwarts

The best part of the day was seeing so many, many people who dig Harry Potter. Nearly everyone was dressed up in some way. Some were decked out completely in robes, uniforms, ties, wands and pets. While others merely sported a Hufflepuff scarf or a Hogwarts beanie. My son, for instance, wore only a t-shirt that said “9 3/4,” while I wore a lot of Gryffindor things that I already own. (I didn’t wear a full witch’s costume or a scarf. Itchy.) My daughter wore a Dementor-like cloak. (My party-pooper husband didn’t join in the fun, but he was a sport for driving and taking us out to dinner after.) We saw Voldemorts, more Trelawneys than I would have expected, a mandrake, a few Hagrids and a Dobby.

Slytherin Couple

Slytherin Couple


Mandrake Costume

It’s a mandrake!

Lessons Learned

If I ever return to the Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill, I will do some things differently. (Bless them, they might shut the whole thing down after how crowded it was this year.)

#1 Make a weekend of it. The Harry Potter festival started out as a conference at the college, which then tacked on a Quidditch match, which then grew into the festival. Because I liked people-watching more than anything else, I would book a room at the historic Chestnut Hill Hotel for Friday night. Then, I would arrive sometime mid-day on Friday in order to attend the conference and the pub crawl. Saturday, I would get some butterbeer and some nibbles, park myself on the front porch, and just watch everyone all day long. I’m sure I’d have to check out before the end of the festival, but again, I would just hang out with my luggage. After the crowds dispersed, I would take myself off somewhere local for dinner, then the drive home.

Professor Trelawney Costume

Fantastic Professor Trelawney Costume

There was a local SEPTA route that became the Hogwarts Express for the day, which might be an alternative to driving, but I wasn’t willing to fight the online or in-person crowds for a ticket.

#2 Get there earlier. I only live about an hour from Chestnut Hill, but thanks to the horrendous traffic, the drive took much longer. Next time, if I don’t stay at the hotel, I would start out much earlier to try to beat the crowds. There are designated parking areas but, by the time we hit town, they were full. People were parking one to two miles away, if not more, and hoofing it.

Snitch Ice Sculpture

Random Bellatrix Lestrange family with ice sculpture of a snitch.

#3 The other great alternative to milling about in the crowd is to get your butterbeer, get some chow, then park yourself in front of the main stage for the day. You might even bring a camp chair. The main stage had events that happened every couple of hours or so. Hanging out at the main stage would mean you’d see all the big activities, even if you didn’t make it to the Horcurx Stations, or whatever was happening inside the stores. (Again, no clue what was going down in there. Not willing to stand in line to find out.)

Dementor Costume

The Dementors are coming!


Harry Potter Festival Sign

Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Festival Sign

Bottom Line

I’m happy I went to the Harry Potter festival in Chestnut Hill, and my family was too. We saw a lot. We communed with other Potterheads. And we came away with a limited edition of the local paper, which was printed to look like the Daily Prophet. When I would take it out to look at the map and the schedule, so many people asked me where I got it, that my husband made it put it away, for fear someone would snatch it right out of my hands!

Harry Potter Festival Family

I am on the left. See the owl post and the big broom?

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If You Go


Save Against Fear Gaming Table

Save Against Fear Con Wrap-up

The Save Against Fear con is “a 3 day tabletop gaming convention to raise awareness for not only therapeutic gaming, but also the Bodhana Group’s mission of reducing the impact of sexual abuse,” according to their Facebook page. Emily Bowman, of Tomboy Togs, attended Save Against Fear last weekend, and gave us an in-depth report.

What festival/con did you attend, and what dates and where?

I attended Save Against Fear, located at the Best Western Premier in Harrisburg, on October 14-16, sponsored by the Bodhana Group.

What topics or fandoms was it celebrating, i.e. Star Trek, fantasy, Ren Faire, anime?

This was a new type of con for me. It was a table top gaming con. I’m sure you’re wondering what constitutes table top gaming, is it a bunch of people sitting around playing Monopoly, or what? Actually, it’s a little bit Monopoly, and a lot more of the “or what”. This con had all kinds of gaming, for all ages, experience levels and genres.

How well was it organized? Was there something they could have done better?

I feel like Save Against Fear was very well organized. From a vendor perspective, the Bodhana Group (the organization running the con) was awesome. The organizers checked in with us many times through out the weekend to make sure all was well, we as vendors were allowed to join in on the gaming ( as long as our booth was manned), and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. I think my biggest issue with it as a vendor was that the vendor hours were a bit too long, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. made for a very long day. I think if they would have shortened the vendor hours to 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. it would have been a bit easier to manage. But all in all, it was really well organized.


Found this guy at Save Against Fear today #tomboytogs #vendorlife #saveagainstfear2016 #capitalcityjediknights

A photo posted by Tomboy Togs (@tomboy_togs) on


Looking at it from a participant perspective, I think they did a great job as well. Save Against Fear made everything into a game, when you registered you were assigned to a team, and each time you did something through out the con, (won a game, purchased from a vendor, etc,) you earned points for your team. The team with the most points at the end of the con won money for the charity that the team was representing. So not only was there gaming, but the event as a whole was one big game! How cool is that?

Who or what was most impressive about it?

I was really impressed by quite a few things at this con, here are things that top my list:

1. The location. The hotel that was chosen was not only beautiful, but it was right off of the highway, and very easy to get to!

2. The food. I’ve been to lots of events where you end up paying your first born child for a hockey puck like hamburger because it’s convenient, and quick. Fortunately, this was not the case at Save Against Fear. For this event, the hotel turned the lobby bar (just feet away from the gaming rooms) into a concession stand during the lunch and dinner hours. You could actually step away from your game (or vendor booth) for 2 minutes with $4 and come back with a hot, fresh, lunch or dinner. And, if you were in the market for a longer more relaxed meal, they had a lovely Irish themed pub connected the hotel as well.

3. Family Fun day Sunday! As a way to introduce families to the fun of table top gaming, Save Against Fear made Sunday family day. They had free activities for kids and families such as live action versions of some games, a magic show and an appearance by the Capital City Jedi Knights Cosplay group. All for free! If you decided to stay and play table top games, you were welcome to pay the registration fee and stay.

4. Last but not least, I was impressed by the Bodhana Group itself. The Bodhana Group the organization that put together this fun event) is a nonprofit organization that advocates the use of tabletop gaming as a directed therapeutic and clinical practice. Short version, they use table top gaming at a form of therapy! How has no one ever thought of this before? According to the Bodhana Group, table top gaming helps with social skills, coping skills and behavioral management. So then I thought to myself, does this make Save Against Fear one big therapy session? In talking to one of the people in charge, Jarred Ebert, I learned that Save Against fear actually started just a few years ago in a local gaming store as a fund raiser for the Bodhana Group. So while yes, gaming is therapeutic the primary purpose of Save Against Fear is to raise money for the Bodhana Group so that they can help others.



Were there a lot of cosplayers? If so, who did you like best?

The Capital City Jedi Knights cosplay group were on hand for Sunday Family Fun Day in all of their Star Wars cosplay glory. They brought their light sabers and took lots of pictures with everyone. Every time I see these guys at an event they are really a class act. Their costumes are always on point, and they are some of the friendliest people you will meet. At Save Against fear, they had Jedis, a Tusken Raider, Greedo, and more.

Would you go again?

At this point whether I want to go again or not is irrelevant. My both of my boys (11 and 6 years-old) have informed me that they had so much fun that they want to go back next year. I will say though that even though I did not personally get to play any games, I had a great time and am very much looking forward to next year.

Did you attend Save Against Fear? Let us know what you thought in the comments!


Geek Day is July 31 Thanks to GeekyCon

Thousands of Geeks from across the country will unite in Orlando to celebrate their obsession with everything nerdy at the seventh annual GeekyCon, one of the largest and most recognized conventions for fans of fantasy films, television shows and young adult books. In recognition of this geeky gathering, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has officially declared July 31 as Geek Day. GeekyCon will be held at the Orange County Convention Center July 29-31. Tickets are on sale at

Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin will present the proclamation in-person during a special opening ceremony the first day of the convention.

“GeekyCon is a remarkable event putting the spotlight on Orlando and the convention district as well as bolstering the local economy,” said Orange County Mayor Jacobs in a press release. “We look forward to hosting them at The Center of Hospitality.”

More than 75 special guests will make personal appearances at the four-day show, including authors, actors, YouTubers, musicians and other celebrities, with fans getting to meet their favorite personalities from fantasy films, television shows, online programming and young adult literature. Unlike other fandom events, attendees do not have to pay for autographs from celebrities beyond the cost of registration.

“Our priority is to develop and maintain a safe community where people can feel comfortable expressing themselves and be a part of something that will enhance their lives,” said Melissa Anelli, co-executive director of Mischief Management, which operates the event. “Fandom is about like-minded people coming together in an environment that supports individuality, diversity, acceptance and education.”

In addition to giving attendees an opportunity to meet celebrities from their favorite movies and television shows and authors of bestselling books, it will offer four full days of programming, including special events, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, workshops, live performances, music concerts and a marketplace.

GeekyCon is one of the largest and most recognized annual fandom conventions in the world and is attended every year by thousands of fantasy film and television fans as well as book enthusiasts. The event was started in 2009 as LeakyCon, a conference for Harry Potter fans and has since grown to include fans of some of the most popular films and television shows such as Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, Marvel and many others. The event also offers fans a literary track that draws some of the biggest authors in the young adult genre, as well as programming with personalities from YouTube and top Web shows. Past events have been held in Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Portland and London. More information is available at

Source: GeekyCon; Photo credit: Alex Erde

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