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Wizarding Wonder: Leland School celebrates 20 years of Harry Potter

Natalia Guzman, a first-grade student at Leland School, has been reading all of the Harry Potter books and watching all of the movies with her parents.

She has become such a fan of the series, she wants to have a Harry Potter-themed birthday party.

On March 4, Guzman attended a Harry Potter event at Leland School, where Harry Potter’s wizarding world of magical objects, quidditch and owls were brought to life.

Eighty-two students, almost one-third of Leland School’s student body, attended the event in the school’s media center and grade school gym to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first book’s publication. The event cost $15 for each student, with the cost helping to pay for the decorations and new books for the media center.

“We wanted to host an event that would bring together students, parents, the community, everybody,” said Mary Hamer, the school’s media specialist. “Last year, we held a ‘Frozen’ event. This year, we wanted a theme that would involve both boys and girls equally. Junior high and senior high school students that remember my last Harry Potter celebration nine years ago helped with decorating during and after school. Graduates even came to help because they enjoyed the last event so much.”

The event began with each student being sorted by an animated, talking hat into one of Hogwarts’ four schools. Students participated in activities, including Harry Potter-themed arts and crafts, snacks, magical creatures bingo, tabletop quidditch, potion making and demonstration, face painting, a photo booth and games, including pin the tail on Dobby. Nearly everybody dressed in costumes, including teachers and faculty, who dressed in character.

To prepare for the event, Harry Potter movies were shown; third-, fourth-, fifth- and seventh-graders read the first Harry Potter book; kindergartners through second-graders painted dragon eggs and studied the dragons found in the Harry Potter books; second- through fifth-graders created their own wands in an engineering challenge, using only materials provided; and students in kindergarten through fifth grade learned about owls.

The event concluded with an owl demonstration by Save Our American Raptors Inc., a nonprofit organization in Earlville dedicated to the welfare of native birds of prey. The demonstration featured three owls: Dickens, a great horned owl; Gollum, a screech owl; and Patrick, a barred owl. In Harry Potter’s wizarding world, owls are magical creatures that deliver mail and parcels.

Dickens, the 19-year-old great horned owl, has a unique connection to the Harry Potter franchise. She is the owl pictured in the poster for the first Harry Potter movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” She is shown holding Harry Potter’s acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Gunnar Nelson of Leland, 10, said he was looking forward to seeing the owls the most, hoping they would look the same from the movie. Nelson attended the event with his cousin from Somonauk, and they both dressed in Harry Potter costumes.

“Sirius Black is my favorite character, and I hope that there will be giant spiders,” Nelson said. “I’m most excited to see the owls, though. Maybe we can pet them?”

Eight-year-old Annie Roberts read the first four Harry Potter books and has seen all of the movies. She was the most excited to try Harry Potter candies, including Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and chocolate frogs.

“I love Harry Potter,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t wait to be sorted by the sorting hat and play quidditch. The event is a lot of fun. I wish I could be in the movies, but it’s almost like the movies came to life at school.”

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