“Potterdelphia” serves the community as more than just a fan club.
Most Harry Potter enthusiasts have given up hope of ever receiving a coveted acceptance letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But fans of Potterdelphia are still waiting patiently – and in the meantime, bringing as much magic as possible to the muggle world around them.
Potterdelphia, the local fan group for all things Harry Potter, was created in 2004 when two local fan groups merged to form one family for wizard buffs of all ages.
For years, Potterdelphia members have met monthly to discuss theories, characters and fan fiction and attend movies and conventions together.
Philadelphia resident Skott Stotland, 31, is a dedicated organizer of Potterdelphia – so dedicated that he’s earned the title of Slytherin Prefect.
Although he didn’t know quidditch from “Quibbler” before he saw “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Stotland became instantly hooked on learning more about the Boy Who Lived after he saw the film in theatres.
“I hit the library and grabbed the books almost immediately,” he said.
And he hasn’t looked back since. A self-proclaimed prankster and “Peeves the Poltergeist,” Stotland said Potterdelphia has been a wonderful source of companionship for members who take their fandom past the books.
“We also have certain field trips that we tend to go on,” Stotland said. “In addition to the midnight showings, we try to go to Terror Behind the Walls and Linvilla Orchards every year. We have a birthday party for Harry at Franklin Fountain every July, and of course, there are wizard rock shows.”
One of the most popular “wizard rock” events is the annual Yule Ball, a holiday-themed celebration for witches and wizard. The party takes its name from the winter ball in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and attendees are encouraged to wear their finest dress robes for the occasion.
This year’s Yule Ball returns to Philadelphia on Dec. 12 at the First Unitarian Church. Headlining the event is punk -rock band, Harry and the Potters, with musical guests The Whomping Willows, Justin Finch-Fletchley and the Sugar Quills, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, MC Kreacher and Rich Aucoin.
But the evening is more than ethereal entertainment.
Potterdelphia is donating $3 from each $15 ticket to the Harry Potter Alliance, a human rights activist group that fights against problems that transcend the wizarding and muggle worlds.
“Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we [the Harry Potter Alliance] work with partner [nongovernmental organizations] in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty and genocide,” the organization’s website reads.
One of Potterdelphia’s public missions is to support childhood literacy and education by donating event proceeds to libraries.
For 42-year-old Lorrie Kim of West Philadelphia, Harry Potter holds more personal significance.
“My husband read to me from the first book when I was sick,” said Kim, adding that she immediately fell for the sadistic, yet lovable Severus Snape.
Since then, the seven-part series has been her subject for many academic papers, studies and conference presentations. As a writer and editor, Kim said analyzing the books kept her sane while she was at home with two small children.
“The concepts in the books about how babies develop lifelong inner resources through loving interactions with caregivers during the first 15 months of life helped me remember the importance of mothering work during times when my self-esteem suffered because I didn’t earn a paycheck,” she said.
When she joined Potterdelphia three years ago, Kim – who sips coffee from her Potions Master mug every morning – was able to share her passion for the wizarding world with others.
Her favorite Potterdelphia meeting to date was after the release of the seventh and final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The group gathered to reflect on what many sadly considered the end of an era but certainly not an end to the Harry Potter fandom, which continues to grow.
“I’ve seen the rise of the midnight book release parties, which is something that never stopped amazing me. Wizard rock came up from being a couple of bands, to a genre, to a medium,” Stotland said, dissecting the Philadelphia wizarding culture. “There were more people at the theater for the midnight screening of ‘Deathly Hallows Part 1’ than there are on an average Friday night. Despite people thinking that the whole thing was going to go away when the last book came out, it certainly doesn’t show any signs of that happening.”
Potterdelphia continues to hold monthly meetings, at which members discuss chapters and specific symbolism packed into J.K. Rowling’s 4,100-page series.
Sometimes, Kim will share her presentations, and authors like John Granger, a Harry Potter scholar and writer, will give lectures to the group.
The topic on everyone’s mind this past month, of course, was the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.”
“The most recent movie is the best for me because I felt the filmmakers’ highest loyalty was to the book, not to any desire to make money or change the story to suit the medium better or cater to any particular audience,” Kim said.
Likewise, Stotland commends the films.
“I think the movies are really well done ‘CliffsNotes’ versions,” Stotland said. “I understand that, when adapting a book, you can’t put everything in, so I don’t really fault them for not making 12-hour long movies.”
“Our main mission is a simple one,” Stotland said. “We’re a place for Harry Potter fans to get together to talk about Harry Potter. Anything beyond that is gravy. You might meet your new best friend, find your new favorite band or join the Harry Potter Alliance and discover a worthy cause.”
Julie Achilles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.