Ithaca’s Wizarding Weekend, A Magical History
When the willows that line the Cayuga Lake Inlet were turning gold with autumn, a magical festival was born in Downtown Ithaca. Gabe, an employee at Boxy Bikes and his younger brother (Aiden) remarked that Press Bay Alley reminded him an alley from a book that shall not be named. From there, an idea was hatched to offer a modest magical celebration including trick or treating, costumes and fun in Press Bay Alley, as it is already a place filled with whimsy and wonder.
What no one knew at that time was how inspiring the idea would be! Within days the event went viral online and thousands of people RSVP’d. An article from the Ithaca Voice sent our small event into a viral tizzy. This was not going to be a quaint trick or treat for a few hundred families: families and fans from hours around wanted to come to Ithaca for a magical escape.
Quickly, Darlynne Overbaugh, Bill Overbaugh, Laurence Clarkberg and John Guttridge got to work. They brought Cornell University’s Raptor Club, a Ford Anglia, and myriad vendors, performers and volunteers to downtown Ithaca–all with only days to sculpt a truly magical world, because by this time, national news outlets had picked up the story. More than 8,000 people were planning to attend.
When the big day arrived, no one quite knew what would happen. People arrived in outlandish costumes, their enthusiasm and their love of the boy who lived creating a community instantly. Local business owners rolled with the situation creating interesting products for guests to purchase. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and volunteers pitched in to help. Wand duels, dragons, magic, owls, wizard chess, and live demonstrations truly enchanted Press Bay Alley for a day. Visitors received acceptance letters to a certain school of magic, found their Houses, traversed the downtown in search of evil magcial artifacts, and teams fought it out in a bicycle-based quidditch bout. Downtown Ithaca was giddily transformed into a magical world.
It continues to be the imagination of attendees and volunteers who brought out the magic in Ithaca. In 2016, we tapped into this same magical force of nature and 10,000 people attended a full weekend of ticketed events and one day street festival. In 2017, we took it a step further and instead of just covering the costs of an event such as this, we dedicated ourselves to raising funds for a local charitable organization – the Blue Sky Center for Learning (a one-to-one autism center). Through everyone’s outstanding efforts we raised over $7500.00!
Based on the growth and the continued love of all things magic, the 2019 Wizarding Weekend festival will be focused on providing family friendly magical entertainment in a Halloween theme.