Friday, July 22, 2011

LeakyCon Take Two -- Reflections

Ever have that feeling that you know you're exactly where you belong?

I had that feeling this past week, bonded together with 3400 others through the love for a boy wizard -- Harry Potter.

At LeakyCon 2011, it was not out of place to proudly display your House colors, spontaneously duel another wizard while waving your wands and shouting spells, or break out into wizard wrock songs. To see Dumbledore wandering the halls, or be greeted with a "Constant vigilance" by Mad-eye Moody, was also common.

But that's not all. Here, among all these other witches and wizards, it didn't matter who you were, where you were from, what you looked like, or any of those other things upon which "society" seems to impress importance. Here, you could be yourself and be proud of it.

I read the Harry Potter series for the first time in 2006, so I started fairly late in comparison to other Potter fans. This due to the fact that my parents were the worst sort of Muggle. Their view of Harry Potter rivaled that of the Dursleys' view of magic. I kept my books hidden very well and could only read them after everyone had gone to bed and even then only by the light of my laptop, with my bedroom door tightly shut, my ears pricked to any movement, as I posted on the Leaky Lounge. I literally felt like Harry Potter in that regards.

When LeakyCon 2009 was announced, I knew I was going to go no matter what. That conference showed me that there was a whole community based on love and Harry Potter and I felt at home. After that trip, I moved and was out from under my parents and able to be free to read Harry Potter whenever and wherever.

Then LeakyCon 2011 was announced...

I immediately made plans to go to Orlando and participate, both as an attendee and staff and presenter with the Leaky Lounge reading groups. I needed to go home to Hogwarts.

To say this experience last week was life changing would be an understatement. The new friends I made and the old friends I was able to see again will always be with me. Being there gave me a sense of purpose, a sense that "I'm not alone". To be surrounded by amazing people I could connect with easily was the best part of LeakyCon, and the Harry Potter fandom as a whole. I could be me.

To everyone out there who may feel like they don't belong, that no one understands them, that life just seems too difficult, remember this: Hogwarts is always here to welcome you home.

The weapon we have is love!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

LeakyCon 2011 -- "This will never end"

One in 3,400...

...yet bonded together by love and the love for a boy named Harry Potter.

Approximately 3400 Harry Potter fans descended on Orlando Florida for LeakyCon 2011 to participate in the culmination of the Harry Potter saga with the release of the final movie, Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Where do I even start? To be able to hang out with other passionate Harry Potter fans was just such an amazing experience that I can barely find words to do it justice. To be able to instantly bond with complete strangers was a feeling that surpassed even the best Cheering Charm. These past few days have been epic and thoroughly cemented in my mind that, even though there may be no more books or movies, the Harry Potter fandom will never end.

Tuesday night and Wednesday greeted the staff with the registration, as we tried to cope with the influx of 3400 people. I personally sat behind my computer for about 9-10 hours Wednesday printing off badges that did not get printed initially and solving other problems or answering questions. To say it was stressful would be an understatement, but all that was on my mind was to be positive, keep smiling, and make sure whoever it was standing in front of me received my full attention and the best possible help I could give.

Wednesday was also Lit Day, a first for the LeakyCon programming. As I was behind a table the entire day, I was unable to attend any of the programming or keynotes, but from reading other posts and blogs, the event was a success! In my mind, it was the perfect compliment to a convention about Harry Potter and hope it is included in any future LeakyCons.

Wednesday night also featured the Open at the Close event held at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal closed the park for regular ticket holders at approximately 10 pm and gave the park full reign to those LeakyCon attendees lucky enough to snag a ticket to this event. I was able to go and experience Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for the first time in my life! To say it was amazing would be the understatement of the year! It was extremely epic to share such an adventure with other passionate Harry Potter fans. Having the park to ourselves was definitely the best way to experience WWoHP for the first time. Enthusiasm was high, the butterbeer flowed, and every witch and wizard enjoyed themselves immensely.

Thursday brought more amazing programming and discussion panels including the Leaky Lounge Reading Groups, of which I was head of this year. Being able to sit around a table and discuss various topics regarding the Harry Potter series was a delight! Thursday also brought the release of the final movie, Deathly Hallows, Part 2. LeakyCon registrants who were able to grab tickets were given a special treat and special screening of the movie 6 hours before it was released! As a Leaky staff member, I was able to watch the movie in IMAX 3D along with other staff members, Harry Potter actors, wizard wrockers, and other special guests. The movie was amazing and seeing it with all those awesome people made the experience even more epic! After the movie was over, I was delighted to ride down the escalator with Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley)! We had a nice chat about the movie and I found out this had been the very first time he'd seen it. I definitely was surprised at that!

After the movie, everyone gathered in the main ballroom area for a wonderful night of wizard wrock, highlighted by The Remus Lupins last live show. Personally, I don't think they could've asked for a better venue for their last show. The music was amazing and all the bands did such a great job! I was able to see Ministry of Magic live, which is one of my favorite wrock bands, so that was definitely awesome!

Friday brought more amazing programming and a real treat to Harry Potter fans -- an overview of the new Pottermore site complete with new information from J.K. Rowling (which caused the audience to "shhhh" the speaker, James Deeley). Friday night also featured more amazing wizard wrock, of which I only saw a bit of because I ended going out to Universal City Walk with a new friend, Bryanna, and having a wonderful time. (Did I mention how easy it is to make amazing friends at LeakyCon??)

Saturday was an early morning for staff and attendees alike -- one was setting up and discussing the best way to tackle the Starkid and Luna, Percy, and the kids events; the other was lining up early to get good seats for Starkid.

After the madness of getting everyone settled, the main events opened with the Warlock's Hairy Heart, a new musical by Lena Gabrielle. It was amazing! Following that, Starkid performed several of their musical numbers from AVPM and AVPS. The genius of the songs really showed both how creative the Harry Potterverse is and how fun it can be! The Starkid event was followed by a hilarious and entertaining panel discussion with the Harry Potter actors Evanna Lynch, Chris Rankin, Scarlett Byrne, Ellie Darcey-Alden, Will Dunn, Rohan Gotobed, Ryan Turner, Arthur Bowen, Helena Barlow, and Benedict Clarke, moderated by Leaky's own Melissa Anelli. All the actors were very nice and I had the pleasure of meeting Evanna and Scarlett.

Saturday night brought the Esther Earl Rockin' Charity Ball in memory of one of Harry Potter's strongest and most courageous fans and avid supporter of the Harry Potter Alliance. The night was full of great music and dancing with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. It was an honor to be on the stage at the end, looking out over the crowd. It will be a feeling I will never forget!

Sunday morning brought the Closing Feast and the amazing announcement by Melissa Anelli that the convention had raised over $120,ooo for charity! The outpouring by the Harry Potter fandom always makes my heart glow with pride. After of which followed the inevitable "good-byes" and hugs and yearbook autographs. And yet, it never truly is good-bye.

To all my amazing friends I connected with again or met for the first time... "This will never end"

"Amor Est Nostrvm Telvm"