Upcoming Meet-Ups: September and October

Back to Hogwarts Teatime and Photoshoot
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When: September 1st, 2014 – 4pm-5:30pm
Where: By and By coffee shop and Staunton Train Station
What: It’s time to get back on-board the Hogwarts Express! Who knew it made a stop in Staunton, Virginia? On September 1st (Labor Day), we will gather for a pre-boarding teatime at By and By (formerly Coffee on the Corner, at the corner of Beverley and Market) to enjoy libations and to chat about our summers and upcoming events in the wizarding world. At 5pm we will adjourn to the Staunton Train Station. We will celebrate the start of the school year by taking some photos in the golden late-summer light with the lovely train station as a backdrop.
Cost: Whatever you choose to spend on tea, coffee, or treats at By and By.
Other Stuff: Wear your Hogwarts-ready best! Whether that means student or professor is entirely up to you; we’ll also try to have a few spare scarves and ties on-hand for the Nevilles among you.
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Care of Magical Creatures Field Trip
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When: September 21st, 2014 – 11am-3pm
Where: National Zoo, Washington, DC
What: A trip through the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park! The animals on view to the Muggle public may not seem like they have magical properties, but remember — nature is itself the greatest and grandest magic of all!
Cost:Park admission is FREE!
Other Stuff:

  • We’ll announce a specific meeting place within the zoo a little closer to the event; we’ll also make a cell phone number available so any latecomers can find us once we’re in there!
  • Learn more about the zoo and its exhibits on the website. Special exhibits and features include the Speedwell Conservation Carousel, the new American Bison exhibit, and animals from a wide variety of biospheres.
  • How to get to the zoo; if you will be driving, the zoo recommends that you reserve your parking space ahead of time.
  • While appropriately-themed T-shirts and jewelry are appreciated, our awareness of Muggle security makes us suspect that they may not take kindly to an open display of magical power (not to mention the threat to the International Statute of Secrecy), so it may be best to leave the formal robes, school uniforms, and wands at home.
  • We’ll also be celebrating your Slytherin Head of House’s 29th birthday. ;) She promises not to make everyone spend the entire day watching the big cats.

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Fortescue’s Fro-Yo: Dessert and Book Discussion
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When: October 4th, 2014 – 7pm-9pm
Where: Zinga! Frozen Yogurt shop, Waynesboro, VA
What: On Friday, October 3rd, we will meet at the Zinga! Frozen Yogurt shop in Waynesboro, VA. For those who’ve never been, this is a choose-your-own dessert buffet, where you can ultra-customize your sugary (or sugar-free!) treat. Florean Fortescue would be proud. They also have a lovely sitting area with comfy chairs where we can gather and have a chat. Since we did Stone of Your Choice a while back, at this meet-up, we’ll be discussing HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS — book and film! This book often ranks near the bottom when people list the series from favorite to least, but in it, we do learn a lot more about the wizarding world — including the first information about blood status, Azkaban, and just what happens if you over-enchant Muggle devices like Ford Anglias, as well as deeper information about the Founders and the history of Hogwarts Castle — so there’s still a lot to celebrate about it! Come prepared with questions, polls, or discoveries to share with the group!
Cost: Whatever you decide to spend on yogurt — they measure it by weight, so whether you spend $1 or $10 is really up to you. ;)
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Harry Potter Festival
When: October 17th, 2014
Where: Chestnut Hill College, Germantown, PA
What: An academic conference focusing on Harry Potter! Our own Louise Freeman Davis will be presenting. The neighborhood supports the festival by transforming itself into a wizard-friendly environment for the weekend!
More information about their 2014 events will be forthcoming on their website.
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Harvest Festival
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When: October 25th, 5pm-10pm
Where: Belvedere Plantation, Fredericksburg, VA
(Roughly 2 hours from Staunton, 1.5 from Charlottesville, 1 from Richmond, and 1.5 from DC)
What: Muggles and wizards alike recognize the importance of marking the changing of the seasons, so join us for a good old-fashioned farmyard celebration of fall! Featuring a corn maze, pumpkin patch, a play-barn (like a playground… but in a barn!), hayrides, pettable barnyard creatures, a mountain slide, pig races (yes, pig races), and more!
Cost: $17 gets you admission to all of the above. Rumor has it they have a sale in late August — we’ll keep you posted! You can also get $1 off with a non-perishable food item for the local food bank.
Other Stuff:

  • Learn more on the Belvedere Plantation website (not yet updated for 2014, but should be soon)
  • Follow their FB page for information about ticket discounts and other news
  • While outside food and drink is not allowed in the festival area itself, there are picnic tables near the parking lot, if you would like to bring along dinner. There is also a market where you can purchase dinner, including carnival favorites like turkey legs, funnel cake, and hot spiced cider.
  • Dress comfortably. Even if it’s still warm (one never knows with Virginia weather), I recommend closed-toed shoes, at the least. Personally, I’m hoping it’s chilly enough for a cozy flannel shirt.
  • The corn maze stays open after dark, so bring along flashlights and/or glow sticks to help you find your way! (Remember: we can’t use lumos in view of Muggles).
  • You may also wish to bring insect repellent, since we will, after all, be wandering through a cornfield.
  • If anyone in the area has suggestions of other Fredericksburg-local things we could do earlier in the afternoon, let us hear them! Those of us traveling from far afield may as well make a proper day of it.

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Ms. Morris Goes to Cons

Your Slytherin Head-of-House has been traveling this past week, all the way down to Orlando, Florida for the 2014 LeakyCon! I actually ran into a few Virginians there, scattered amongst the masses, but mostly I was hanging with members of the Central Florida Slug Club and Tampa Bay’s Portkey to Magic. I’ve had a couple of days to process now, and I thought it might be a nice opportunity to analyze all three of the cons I’ve been to in the past 24 months. Each was quite different from the others. Each had its strengths and its drawbacks, depending on who you are and what kind of experience you like best.

Ascendio 2012: 

This was my first con-going experience, and it was just out of this world. Run by HPEF (the Harry Potter Educational Fanon), the location could not have been better: the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios, one of the official park hotels, meaning that Hogsmeade was only a short boat ride away. The hotel itself was absolutely beautiful all over — pool, guest rooms, conference rooms, restaurants, common areas. This made for some great photos. It was also great to have common rooms open for games, meals, and meeting new people.7660030396_5a3b03a5c0_b

HPEF always had a strong academic base, and that really showed in the programming. I went to so many wonderful sessions run by smart, savvy people. That doesn’t mean it was like school or like an academic conference, just that almost every session was of very high quality. I can only think of one, off the top of my head, that wasn’t thoroughly entertaining. Topics ranged from debates on the “bad boys” of the wizarding world to fandom tattoos to a physiological analysis of the Cruciatus Curse. There was also an excellent lit track featuring not only popular authors, but agents and other industry specialists. Special events included a dueling melee run by a local Renaissance Faire, stage shows, wrock concerts, and the best, most energetic dance I’ve been to in ages. Attendance was, I think, around 800 — though I may be wrong there. It seemed a good, full crowd, but not over-large. It was easy to meet new people, particularly with the accessibility of the common rooms and so many communal events like the opening ceremonies, the ball, and the closing brunch. Non-stop excitement, but never overwhelming.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t things that could’ve been done better. Some of the scheduling was a little ridiculous, there weren’t always prefects in the rooms to manage the sessions (particularly to manage them ending and clearing the room), and the fanfic readings got seriously short shrift. But, on the whole, all was well.

The Future: HPEF initially swore, in 2012, that they were out of the con-making business. Rumors abound, however, that this assertion may prove unfounded. A few months ago, they put out a survey to test the waters regarding a Summer 2015 convention; reaction was mixed, as many prior attendees would love another HPEF con, but thought the timing was too close to that of another convention, namely… 

MISTI-Con 2013: 

Held in Laconia, New Hampshire, MISTI-Con took place at the Margate Resort, a lakeside hotel with conference facilities. Attendance was roughly 400, making for a truly intimate experience, fitting for the size of the hotel and the immersive environment. MISTI-Con’s specialty is dropping you into the world of Harry Potter with a special theme. All of the public areas were decorated to resemble areas of the Ministry, and the common room was open twenty-four hours a day. The con encourages heavy cosplay, with many people spending the entire con in costume if not in-character, and is unique in placing an emphasis on original characters — the con organizers ran the big events in-character, for example.

The programming here was similar to Ascendio’s in some ways, which isn’t surprising considering there’s quite a bit of overlap in attendees between MISTI and HPEF. Last year featured several tracks which participants could follow in return for a prize if they completed a certain number. Fitting with the theme, much of the programming expanded upon world-building aspects. Heather Murphy of CF Slug Club and I, for example, presented on the International Statute of Secrecy. Special events included Jeopardy, karaoke, glow-in-the-dark Quidditch, a pool party, and the Wizarding Advanced Readiness Trials (a Triwizard-like competition won by yours truly). This con tends to skew a bit older than the other two, which I appreciated — particularly since it came with the bonus of many, many specialty drinks served at the ball.

The Future: MISTI-Con is on for Memorial Day weekend 2015! The Staunton contingent of the club will be there in force (many of us as actors for the murder mystery that is one night’s entertainment, a few of us as staff members as well). We’re hoping to push the worldbuilding and original character creation even farther, as well as gearing the programming towards this year’s theme: the Wizarding World’s Fair.

LeakyCon 2014:

Leaky’s been going on for quite some time in various locations, but this was my first experience with it. This one was in Orlando, though not at a park hotel, but rather out at the convention center a few miles away and the hotels semi-attached to it. This is by far the largest con I’ve been to — somewhere around 5000 this year, though prior years have ranged from 1000 to 8000, from what I understand. It skews younger than the other two cons, on the whole, and is more of a multi-fandom con than Potter-focused.

IMG_0425I’d heard, to be honest, not the best things about Leaky, particularly regarding their organization — horror-stories of 8-hour check-in lines, mismanagement of rooms, chaos in the hallways, etc. I didn’t find the organization all that lacking this time around. From what I understand, the folk registering on Wednesday had to wait for hours, thanks to complications regarding the park event, but I had no trouble Thursday morning. Everything else was fairly simple — events were easy to find, though it was quite a long walk from the hotel. I didn’t find the programming as much to my tastes as the other two cons, however.

Leaky is a great con for people who are interested in special guests. Leaky has those coming out of their ears, from a variety of fandoms — StarKid, Potter Puppet Pals. I enjoyed the couple of large presentations I went to (Potter Puppet Pals and Not Literally), but I’m not someone willing to stand in line for photos and autographs, so that wasn’t a big draw for me. The programming itself didn’t seem as analytic, world-building, or well-organized as at the other cons. There was also a lot of focus on fandoms I’m just not a part of, making Leaky a Your Mileage May Vary event. Some people really, really love what it offers — but for me, it wasn’t as exciting as the in-depth experience I got at Ascendio and MISTI. There also just didn’t seem to be as much to do, particularly at night. If you didn’t want to go to a wrock concert, there really weren’t other options after about 6pm — a far cry from the special events and late-night common rooms elsewhere.

The Future: Now here’s the catch on this one: Next year, the organizers are splitting Leaky into two separate cons. Sort of like an original and an extra-crispy recipe. LeakyCon will go back to being a Harry-Potter only convention, projected to be much smaller. The pan-fandom programming will become the larger GeekyCon, so folk who enjoyed the experience they had this year will probably find a happy home there.

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So — How about the rest of you? Has anyone been to these or other cons? What sort of con-going experience do you like best — small and intimate, more academic, or large and star-studded?

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Meet-up Recap: Astronomy Tower Night

To start off the evening, Louise hosted us at her house just outside of Charlottesville for a feast worthy of Wizarding royalty. The menu included Shepherd’s pies, “Leek”y Cauldron soup (with optional BACON), an array of sweet treats (including Treacle Tart, Cauldron Cakes, and Acid Pops), and a truly wizz-bang Butterbeer tasting. The Butterbeer tasting included four options - Honeyduke’s Bottled, Aberforth’s “No Underage Wizards Allowed” Brew, Winky’s Quick-Mix, and Rosmerta’s Homemade (check out the recipes on our Facebook) – which guests could rate. While filling up on sugar and delicious carbs, we were almost thwarted by a sudden, strong thunderstorm that struck. A quick call to the observatory confirmed that they would still show us around, so we packed into three Ford Anglias for the quick trip to the UVA campus.

Once at the McCormick Observatory, we explored the museum and handled a meteorite. Then, Chris took us into the dome itself to look at the telescope and tell us about its history.  The telescope is 32.5 feet long and dominates the room; however, it’s well-balanced and several of us tried our hands at manually moving it around the space. Chris also showed us the original, 19th-century telescope chair which revolves around the telescope on a track and can be raised and lowered with a set of rope pulleys (several of us tried out both features). If, for example, a wizard wanted to look at a celestial object close to the horizon, you would have to be quite high in the chair in order to line your eye up to the lens.

After the hands-on portion, we adjourned to a lecture led by Larry. He taught us quite a few things about the moon, the planets, and our place in the greater universe.

Thank you to Louise, Chris, and Larry for such a great night!

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Meet-Up Recap: Quidditch in the Park

On Saturday, June 7th, Virginia is for Wizards was joined by representatives from the University of Virginia Quidditch team at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton for a fun morning of learning the hoops of the game. The weather was clear and we definitely attracted the attention of the passers-by.

We started with some drills to practice our skills as Chasers, Beaters, and Keepers. Once we felt confident, we added brooms to the mix and practiced some plays. Two small girls joined us for a while and were excellent additions to the teams.

At the end of the session, UVA’s official Snitch let us practice our Seeking skills (it wasn’t a fair fight, though, we had 6 Seekers against just one Snitch).

Cass excelled as a Chaser; Dylan dominated as a Beater; Christina made a fair Beater, too; and Noah got to try his legs at being the Snitch.

We will be hosting more Quidditch in the Park practices in the coming months, so stay tuned.

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Upcoming Meet-Up: Time Turner Day at the Virginia Renaissance Faire

012When: May 10th, 2014, 10am-5pm
Where: Lake Anna Winery, Spotsylvania, VA
What: Witches and Wizards of Virginia and surrounding environs are hereby invited to test out a new time-turning device capable of transporting them back, for a few hours’ duration, to Elizabethan England.

Time Turners will be available at the Lake Anna Winery in Central Virginia on May 10th, 2014.

Dressing in accordance with historical trends is highly encouraged, though attendees should be aware that open display of a wand may alarm religious authorities and lead to unpleasant scenes. Though the International Statute of Secrecy had not yet taken effect during the reign of Elizabeth I, magic performed in front of early modern Muggles by modern-dwelling witches and wizards will be considered as retroactively in violation.

Attendees are reminded not to interfere with historical events, lest they risk unraveling the very fabric of reality.

Other Stuff: 

  • Learn more about the faire on their website or on Facebook.
  • Use this link for a discount on tickets from LivingSocial.
  • Lake Anna is roughly an hour and a half from both Staunton and DC, about an hour from Richmond, and about half an hour from Fredericksburg, so we’re hoping to see witches and wizards from all across the state!
  • And another local group, Geeks of the Shenandoah Valley, is also planning a trip that day, so perhaps we will get some nerdy cross-pollination!
  • Tomorrow’s weather looks to be in the low 80s, so dress to keep cool. There’s a chance of thunderstorms, though not till fairly late in the afternoon, so hopefully we won’t need to cast too many Impervious Charms!
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VA-Wiz on Always – The Potter Fandom Podcast

Want to hear your Heads of House talk? Listen to the 5th episode of Always – The Potter Fandom Podcast. Tune in at about the two-hour mark to listen to us chat about Virginia is for Wizards, as well as our history in the fandom and our hopes for the future of the club!

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Divination Day

On February 22nd, several of us gathered in a cozy apartment in downtown Staunton for a little tea and little gazing into the sands of time.

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A selection of teas for our tasseomanc-ing perusal

We got to enjoy some lovely conversation while sipping our tea and enjoying shortbread cookies

We got to enjoy some lovely conversation while sipping our tea and enjoying shortbread cookies

None of us being expert tasseomancers ourselves, we relied on the mystical world wide web to help us make sense of the dregs. For some very simple shapes, I can recommend this visual guide. For a little more detail, try this site or this site.

Cass felt sure she had a lobster, signifying

Cass felt sure she had a lobster, signifying “a pleasant event, or a good present”

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Dylan had a star. Or a monster. We’re not quite sure. As he kept swishing, he was disappointed to learn that neither “giant robot” nor “Trogdor” were in any of our online dictionaries.

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Contemplating…. opening the inner eye…. channeling our inner Trelawneys…

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Those of us heading to Florida in October were happy to know that Christina’s cup told her she was in for pleasant journeys in the next 8 months.

Noah found that his tea choice was a little too clumpy for easy reading. Dylan helped him swish some out for better divining!

Noah found that his tea choice was a little too clumpy for easy reading. Dylan helped him swish some out for better divining!

We decided to have a second round of tea, just for drinking, and then Cass did some Tarot readings. For this, we did not have to rely on the internet’s wisdom, as Cass has been reading for years. We even got to help her break in a brand-new deck!

The Steampunk Tarot deck was a favorite of the afternoon

The Steampunk Tarot deck was a favorite of the afternoon

Though the Shadowscapes deck has undeniable artistic loveliness

Though the Shadowscapes deck has undeniable artistic loveliness

We ran through a few "decision-making" spreads

We ran through a few “decision-making” spreads

I don’t know if any of us pierced any great mysteries of the beyond, but we had a lovely time!

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