Celebrating end of Hogwarts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Under a full moon I walked through the gates at Universal Studios in Orlando and beheld a sight that took my breath away.

Hogwarts had welcomed me back.

For the last seven days, I have been among more than 3,400 Harry Potter fans at LeakyCon 2011 — a conference put on by The Leaky Cauldron (TLC) to celebrate the end of the beloved series.

TLC is a non-profit Harry Potter website, whose staff helped organize the event to raise money for two charities — the Harry Potter Alliance and Book Aid International.

Conference participants got the chance to play in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, participate in the vast programming LeakyCon had to offer, interact with other fans, get to know some of the actors and view the last Harry Potter film a day early.

Planning a conference this size was no easy task.

It took more than two years to plan this year’s conference. Since July 2010, I have been playing the role of providing a newsletter to subscribers every month leading up to LeakyCon.

As the months rolled by in a hurry, we were taking care of the last-minute details to make it all run in a smooth manner.

I couldn’t contain the excitement that was coursing through my body last weekend as there were only a single-digit number of days left until the start.

I left Andalusia early last Tuesday morning, arrived in Orlando at lunch time and was immediately put to work filling badges with the correct names and different conference options each participant had purchased.

Wednesday night was the opening ceremony and the Open at the Close Event, where ticket purchasers got the chance to have the WWoHP all to themselves for the night.

We actually got to taste ButterBeer from the books, buy chocolate cauldrons and visit the Three Broomsticks, a local watering hole in Hogsmeade.

Thursday and Friday’s programming screamed by in a hurry because for both days I was busy working to make sure things didn’t get too crazy or fulfilling my volunteer duties.

Each night there was a main event to cap the day. The Open at the Close event gave Wednesday the perfect ending for me and so many others.

Thursday and Friday nights were dedicated to Wizard Rock — bands that sing all about Harry Potter.

That was awesome.

On the last night of the conference, we rocked out at the Esther Earl Rocking Charity Ball to honor the memory of Earl, a Harry Potter fan who died of cancer last August at 16 years old.

That night was magical. There was dancing, singing and celebration for the end of a successful conference and the life of Earl.

On my drive back to Andalusia Monday, I recalled each great memory I made while at the conference. I’ll hold them forever in my heart as I move on.

But, I’ll always know that as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling put it so eloquently at the last film premiere in London, that we’ll always be welcomed back at Hogwarts.