Arts and Culture

Sconnie muggles celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter

Film screenings and a festival start this month

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
— The phrase that activates the Marauder's Map of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Twenty years ago, we were invited into Hogwarts. It was 1997 when J.K. Rowling published “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (known in the U.S. as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”). Since then, millions of muggles—the word for the non-magical majority of us—have read the series (in 79 languages) and watched as the books came to life on the big screen.

I first picked up “Sorcerer’s Stone” after graduating from college, and I was skeptical. I mean, aren’t these books for kids? But like so many others, I grew fond of Harry, “The Boy Who Lived.” I avidly read the entire series, laughing and crying as my favorite characters grew up together. I now proudly own a wand. And I share my love of Hogwarts with my children, reading my well-worn books to them every night at bedtime and watching them fall in love with the rich world Rowling created.

It’s time to raise your goblet of Butterbeer—here’s the recipe—to Harry and celebrate 20 years of magic. Wisconsin is celebrating the anniversary with special events for the whole family.

ZOO-vies at the Henry Vilas Zoo
Thursday, Oct. 19
Watch “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”—the first of the movies—under the stars. Henry Vilas Zoo is screening the film on a sixteen-foot outdoor screen. This kid-friendly event will begin at dusk. (Zoo gates open at 7 p.m.) Bring your own blankets, lawn chairs, and watch Harry discover he’s a wizard, come face-to-face with a gigantic three-headed dog, and discover the secret of the Sorcerer’s Stone. Tickets are $5 per person (ages 3 and under are free). Find more information here.

Harry Potter Festival USA, Jefferson
Friday-Sunday, Oct. 20-22
Calling all witches and wizards to the third-annual Harry Potter Festival which moves from Edgerton to Jefferson this year. What started as a small event in 2015, attended by about 5,000 people, the festival reportedly attracted more than 40,000 Muggles last year with their wands at the ready. (The true number of 2016 attendees is a matter of some debate, however.) This year, the weekend begins with a magical Lighted Festival Parade on Friday night. Potter fans will brave the Serpent’s Corn Maze, walking through the belly of a massive serpent in a 5-acre cornfield. Watch a game of Live Wizard Chess: just like the one in Sorcerer’s Stone, this game is played by human “chess pieces” on a life-sized board. Cheer for your favorite team in the college Quidditch tournament, get a personalized Hogwarts acceptance letter delivered to you by owl, and relive the magic with drive-in movie viewings. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children (ages 2 and under are free) for the entire weekend. Get details here.


“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” in concert with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Riverside Theater, Milwaukee
Friday-Sunday, Dec. 15-17
Experience the magic of Hogwarts live in concert. Theatergoers will be treated to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra playing the score for “Chamber of Secrets” during screenings of the film. (The Madison Symphony Orchestra did the same for viewers of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” last June at the Overture Center for the Arts.) “Chamber of Secrets,” the film based on Rowling’s second book in the series, follows Harry as he encounters a strange new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, finds a mysterious diary that seems to have a mind of its own, and battles a deadly basilisk. Tickets start at $45.50 per person. Learn more here.​​​​​​​

There are lots of fun ways to celebrate the magic at home, too. Some of my favorite ideas:

Post a Hogwarts acceptance letter. There are some great kits on Etsy, including a personalized letter from Professor McGonagall, a ticket to board the Hogwarts Express, a school supply list and a Hogwarts wax seal. These arrive by mail, not by owl, to avoid suspicion.

You’re in! Now get sorted into your house. Every Hogwarts student dons the sorting hat to find out if they’re a Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin for the duration of their schooling at Hogwarts. You, too, can be sorted at Rowling’s official site, (I’m a Ravenclaw, naturally).

Deck yourself out in Hogwarts house robes. I bought mine from Universal Studios, the official Harry Potter shop, but there are great robes available at your local costume store at this time of year. (It is almost Halloween, after all)

Eat some magical treats. As they ride the Hogwarts Express, students buy treats from the witch who rolls her cart down the corridor. Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans come in flavors that include peach and earwax. You never know what you’ll get until you bite in to one. Try a Chocolate Frog and find a wizard card inside—just like the ones Ron and Harry collect. You can find these treats on Amazon and at your local candy shop.

Read and re-read the books. There’s so much fantastic detail on every page that it’s a new experience every time you read them. Read the books aloud to your little ones or enjoy them on your own with a cozy fire and a warm blanket. Or, listen to the award-winning audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale—available at your local library or on Audible—which will, at the very least, make your morning commute more bearable.

Erin Hueffner is a writer and mom of two magical girls who live in McFarland. Erin never received her Hogwarts acceptance letter, so instead she attended University of Wisconsin–Madison where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

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