Hogwarts Comes to Brockport
Potter Fest on May 6 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series.
SUNY Brockport will undergo a touch of magic on Saturday, May 6.
Potter Fest — part academic conference, part fun and games — will celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in J.K. Rowling’s popular book series, first published in 1997.
Associate Professor of English Meg Norcia is organizing the event. She advertised on campus to form a steering committee, which has come to include about a dozen faculty, staff, and students.
“It’s really exciting that people from a variety of different disciplines, people who have different stakes in the College, can work together and be brought together for something fun,” said Norcia. “There are Potter fans everywhere!”
Beyond Norcia’s home department, conference presenters hail from Drake Memorial Library and from the Departments of Psychology; Social Work; Healthcare Studies; Modern Languages and Cultures; and Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education. They’re also coming from the Greater Rochester community.
Shannon Symonds ’06, who earned a master’s degree in history from Brockport and is now associate curator at The Strong National Museum of Play, will return to campus for Potter Fest, to present on the museum’s collection of Harry Potter memorabilia — which includes a replica of a sorting hat, a Quidditch broom, wands, and many play-related objects — and will highlight the role of a curator in collecting and preserving artifacts.
Symonds’s career with The Strong began with an internship during her time at Brockport. That was how she discovered her appreciation and aptitude for public history, and she has continued working there since.
When Norcia reached out to The Strong about participation in Potter Fest, Symonds’s boss passed the inquiry along to her, known as the proud “resident geek” of the staff and a long-time Harry Potter fan (she’s team Ravenclaw).
“It’s the perfect storm,” said Symonds, “because it’s at Brockport, it’s Harry Potter, and it’s giving me another chance to reach out and educate people.”
Additional presentation topics will include Harry Potter and leadership, the representation of gender in the series, the use of mythological creatures, heroism, divination and cognitive science, transfiguration through physical activity, and resiliency and post-traumatic growth.
Karen Morris, Brighton Town Justice and a Distinguished Professor at Monroe Community College, will present on themes from her book, Law Made Fun through Harry Potter’s Adventures.
Barbi Clifton ’15, adjunct lecturer in English and a member of the steering committee, will discuss how Hermione's activism empowers young readers to stand up for their own beliefs and work against injustice. Clifton is excited about the richness of Potter Fest's message.
"It suggests that the world of literature is about so much more than just reading books," she said. "It showcases literature as a means by which we experience the richness of life more fully, a vehicle for promoting tolerance and understanding, and a portal to explore vast realms of imagination."
In addition to the academic atmosphere, festival activities will be offered throughout the day, including face-painting, wand-making, a trivia contest, a horcrux scavenger hunt, and a traditional British high tea.
The Quidditch team from Victor High School and the Zoomobile from Seneca Park Zoo (featuring toads, snakes, lizards, and owl artifacts) will also be part of the day’s festivities.
“The Potter books really defined a generation,” said Norcia. “Culturally, they are so important, and the allusions to this book are going to be really significant. Celebrating the anniversary is a great way to honor that.”
Potter Fest coincides with Junior Preview Day, giving high school juniors who are considering attending Brockport an example of creative, interdisciplinary learning at the college level.
With the exception of the British high tea, which requires registration and costs $11 per person, the event is free and open to the public. Due to the academic nature of much of the activity, the recommended age for attendees is 11 and up, and all children must be accompanied by an adult.
For registration and more information on Potter Fest, visit brockport.edu/go/potter.