This year all the Barnes & Noble bookstores, including our local Fresno location, hosted a Magical Holiday Ball inspired by the Harry Potter books. (Specifically the Yule Ball highlighted in the fourth book, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. Not to be obsessive or anything!)
It promised to be a fun evening packed with Harry Potter-themed activities, and attendees were encouraged to come in costume.
I’m a serious HP fan, and am enthusiastic about any chance to get dressed up and get out of the house on a Friday night. So I grabbed my witch hat and cloak and geared myself up for an evening of Wizarding shenanigans.
As soon as I got to the front door, it was clear that no one was messing around. The word was out- there were tons of people, mostly Muggles, but quite a few costumed characters were there to get into the spirit of things, ranging from adults to babes in arms. (Or “babe in planter”, in the case of this young Mandrake seedling.)
There were activity tables spread throughout the store, with a wide variety of amusements to choose from. Lots of art projects were there to choose from. You could make your own owl mask, color sheets representing your favorite Hogwarts houses, or even put together an owl bearing a candy cane to send to a friend. My favorite, however, had to be the DIY Golden Snitch Christmas Ornaments.
If you weren’t feeling artistic, you could nab a collectible poster, play Quidditch, participate in a round of Harry Potter trivia or charades, enter a raffle drawing for HP coloring books, or visit the Divination table, where you could have your palm or your tea leaves read. Hopefully, nobody saw the Grim!
There was even a backdrop in case you wanted to take an official Holiday Ball photo with your date for the evening- Wizard, Muggle, or Magical Creature notwithstanding. Or you could partake of the refreshment tables, which had cookies and several different beverages to choose from.
Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be having a great time. Lots of families were there to participate in the activities. Central High had a table set up for their book fair. I got to speak with one of their librarians, Ramona Cheek, who seemed to be having a blast while people-watching.
“What’s it like to end up in the middle of something like this?” I asked, as a man walked past dressed as Severus Snape and the mother of the Mandrake set his pot down on the table to give her arms a little rest.
Ramona seemed quite unfazed by everything at this point, given that she was being questioned by a woman in a sparkly velvet witch hat and a zebra print cloak.
“It’s just great to be part of an event featuring timeless books!” she said, smiling.
I was born in Fresno and grew up here, as did my husband and my parents. I'm thrilled to be raising my young son here too! I've gone away for school and spent brief periods in other parts of California, but have always ended up homesick for my hometown.
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