Thousands expected to attend Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson
First time Jefferson is hosting festival
JEFFERSON, Wis. — Streets and storefronts around Jefferson are being transformed into a world for witches and wizards.
City leaders and event organizers have been planning the Harry Potter Festival since the city voted in January to host it.
“It’s exciting and exhausting at the same time, but I’m really proud of what everyone, a lot of people, have helped us with,” said Robert Cramer, the festival’s operations manager.
“We took what we learned last year. The good we’re keeping and building on. The bad we’re just kind of fixing it or nixing it totally.”
Cramer said the festival has already sold more than 20,000 wristbands online, and he expects 40,000 to 60,000 people to attend part or all of the three-day event.
“We have sold online wristbands from San Diego to Ontario, Canada, to the Southern states,” he said. “I have vendors coming in from Texas, North Carolina, all over the place.”
People who live in Jefferson said they’re excited to see people from across the country come to their hometown.
“I don’t know much about Harry Potter, but I’ve been watching it. It’s interesting,” said Robert Teeter, who lives in town. “The lady that wrote the book is fantastic. It’s good to see kids get involved in something other than Nintendo and other play games like that.”
Teeter said his granddaughters from Madison are coming to the festival and making him dress up.
“It’s funny. There’s going to be a lot of people here, and it’s good for business,” he said.
Cramer said the festival will have free parking and free shuttles for people who bought wristbands to ride. There are 11 bus stops around town at different festival locations. Cramer said a bus company will run 18 shuttles during the festival and plans to have a bus at each stop every eight minutes.
“There’s a lot of things to do for a lot of people,” he said. “Even if you don’t know anything about Harry Potter, there’s still exciting things to do.”
Vetro Winery is one of the 11 bus stops. Tami Vetrano, whose family owns the business, said they’re excited to be a part of the fun.
“We wanted to partake in the festivities just to entertain all the tourists that are coming to our county here and celebrating the Harry Potter Festival,” she said.
The winery made special themed labels and will have Butterbeer slushies on tap.
The festival starts Friday at 5 p.m. with a torch lighting, followed by a lighted parade at 6:30 p.m. People don’t need a wristband to attend those events.
Other events at the festival include character meals, helicopter rides, a corn maze, a Lego display, a life-size game of chess, college Quidditch tournaments and different places to shop. There will also be Harry Potter movies playing at the drive-in theater Friday and Saturday night and a special interactive art experience performed to themed music.
“It’s really a great opportunity for us to showcase what a great place the city of Jefferson is and hopefully this is going to be the start of a really long-standing partnership,” said Chief Kenneth Pileggi with the Jefferson Police Department.
Pileggi said the city is all-hands-on-deck during the festival to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
“Obviously, during these kinds of events, hiccups are going to occur, we’re going to learn. With the in-depth planning that I’ve done with my colleagues and my fellow department managers, and both Rob and Scott Cramer, the organizers, I really think we’re going to have something really neat here that’s well-organized,” he said. “I think with the success I’m anticipating this is going to be, I think this is going to be a staple, one of those regular-type events that Jefferson hosts every year.”
Pileggi said a church in Monroe notified him that members would be passing out biblical tracts during part of the festival on Saturday. He said he’s not concerned about the people causing any problems.
Cramer said he and his brother plan to host the Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson every year. He said they’ve already started tossing around ideas to make next year even better.
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