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Vermont Camp Created for 'Harry Potter' Fans


For those not following one of the major stories of the weekend, let's just bring you up to date: the seventh and final book in the "Harry Potter" series has been released, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." For some, the waiting was half the fun. In the state of Vermont, some very lucky kids last week gathered at a special day camp designed to look and feel like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN: Mid-afternoon on Friday, a dozen kids sprawl on the floor and slump on pillows while a group of young actors circle with their wands.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Unintelligible). One, two, three.

MANN: This is Wild Magic Camp, where the young apprentices, all dressed in wizarding robes, are rehearsing a play that they helped write. It's full of predictions about the fate of Harry and Hermione and Ron.

GROUP: Play.

Unidentified Woman #2: Ron, look out. (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of screaming)

Unidentified Woman #3: (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

MANN: The day camp sits in the rolling hills just outside of Shelburne. To be honest, it doesn't look much like Hogwarts; more like a hobbit house, really. The walls are painted purple and there are real grass and wild flowers growing on the roof. The big field outside has been converted into a playing pitch for nine-year-old Khaki Swanks'(ph) favorite sport.

Ms. KHAKI SWANKS: I like quidditch because, like, it sort of like quidditch except you don't play up in the air, obviously, because that would sort of be a bit hard.

MANN: So the campers can't actually leave the ground on their broomsticks, but there is a golden snitch and a sorting hat to divide up the teams, and all of it the brainchild of a local public school teacher named Joplin James(ph).

Mr. JOPLIN JAMES (Creator, Wild Magic Camp): We've been Harry Potter fans straight from the very first book.

MANN: Joplin and his wife Allison(ph) set up dozens of activities for the campers, including a close encounter with real life Slytheren style snakes and a trip into an enchanted maze.

Mr. JAMES: But I think what was really the most magical was just when the kids had free time and they would just go out there and just imagine and pretend.

MANN: The big challenge for the grown-ups, James says, was staying a step ahead of the campers and their encyclopedic knowledge of everything to do with Harry.

Mr. JAMES: So I often was being contradicted by them in saying, you know, getting the pronunciation just right on a spell or…

MANN: For these campers, like a lot of Harry Potter fans, the fine points matter deeply.

Mr. ZEKE CRESCENT(ph): I've read all the books quite a few times.

MANN: Ten-year-old Zeke Crescent shrugs shyly when asked about his fascination with the wizarding world. But then he raises his hickory wand and turns proudly to show the Gryffindor badge on his cape.

Mr. CRESCENT: I'm like Ron because of my hair. I have red hair and freckles. And yeah, I think I'm most like Ron.

Ms. LENE WALENBERG(ph) (Mother of Nick Walenberg): I haven't seen him so inspired in years, actually.

MANN: Lene Walenberg says her 11-year-old son Nick has grown up with the Potter books, and this camp was a sort culmination.

Ms. WALENBERG: It was truly magical. And he would come home and tell me what real magic he had done during the day. He did say, though, that he didn't appreciate the defense against the dark arts because what he was taught wouldn't work against Voldemort.

GROUP: (Singing) I'm Harry Potter, Harry, Harry Potter. Singing a song all day long…

MANN: The last big test for the kids, and maybe the biggest adventure, is waiting up together for the clock to strike midnight at the local bookstore waiting for the new Harry Potter book to be handed out.

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah, like, I probably won't be able to sleep tonight because I'm going probably stay up all night reading the book. I can't wait until I get to actually see what happens.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MANN: For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.