Harry Potter Festival to draw thousands of witches, wizards to Chestertown

The small Eastern Shore town of Chestertown will be transformed into Harry Potter's world this weekend.

You won't need a broomstick, floo powder or the Hogwarts Express to travel to the magical world of "Harry Potter" this weekend. 

All it takes is a quick trip down to Chestertown, where the small Kent County town will be transformed into the wizarding world this weekend for the third annual Chestertown Harry Potter Festival. 

Featuring events like Nearly Headless Nick's 524th Deathday Party and Professor Sprout's Mandrake demonstration, the festival is expected to draw thousands of diehard Potterheads young and old from all over the country. 

"Our town is really well-suited to turning into the villages in Harry Potter’s land," said Heather Calloway, publicity chair for the festival's executive board.

The whole town gets involved, she said, with the stores transforming into shops that could be straight out of Hogsmeade. J.R.'s Past-time Pub will transform into the Leaky Cauldron, the local bookstore is Flourish & Blotts, and Chesapeake Bank and Trust will become the decidedly more magical financial institution Gringotts. 

The Harry Potter Festival — which is not affiliated with series author J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros. Entertainment — was born out of a local kids' summer camp being held in the town. Calloway said that last year, the event drew about 3,000 people (Chestertown's population is just over 5,000, according to Census data), with some Potter fans traveling from as far as New York and the Carolinas. 

They expect even more visitors this year, Calloway said. 

Each year the volunteers who run the festival choose a different "Harry Potter" book as a theme; this iteration will be focused on "The Chamber of Secrets." Festivities include a costume contest, vendors, Harry Potter-themed foods and — of course — quidditch.

And while there are plenty of kid-friendly endeavors to enjoy, Calloway says its the adults who get into it the most. 

"It’s just ... universal," the librarian said. "It crosses all ages.”

If you go 

The Chestertown Harry Potter Festival kicks off with a party at 6 p.m. tonight at Garfield Center for the Arts, 210 High St., Chestertown ($5, free for kids 12 and under). Festivities, both free and ticketed, will run throughout the weekend at various locations in downtown Chestertown. For a full schedule, go to chestertownhpfest.org. 

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