For seven magical years, fans of the beloved Harry Potter franchise flocked to Chestnut Hill for the annual Harry Potter Festival — a crisp October weekend featuring butter beer, wands, and costumed characters from the books and movies.
Much to the dismay of supporters, the festival on the weekend of Oct. 20, 2017, was the unexpected final rendition of the event, after Warner Brothers hit the Chestnut Hill District with a cease and desist letter for too closely imitating the Harry Potter series.
For Walt Maguire, dressing as the festival’s Dumbledore was a serious endeavor — one that required him to begin his preparation at 5 a.m.
For a full hour, Maguire, a writer living in Germantown, would carefully dress himself in a floor-length silver robe, apply a white beard and wig, and gather accessories including glasses and a wand. He then set off to greet passengers on the “Hogwarts Express,” otherwise known as the SEPTA Chestnut Hill line
Although he originally signed up to play the role seven years ago in order to entertain his daughter, he later “enjoyed what it meant to the other kids, especially the ones who seemed to be the only ones in their family interested in the [Harry Potter] story.”
Maguire didn’t know at the time that it would be his final year dressing as Dumbledore.
“When I heard [the festival] was being discontinued, my first thought was a slight resentment that I didn’t get to decide to stop. Five minutes later, I was feeling nostalgic, and thinking of all the things we always thought we’d fix ‘next year.’ ”
While he might not have the opportunity to make those planned changes as Dumbledore, he will still remain a part of the festival — now downsized and rebranded as Witches and Wizards — as a co-host of the costume contest.
“Since no one will recognize me without the ‘Dumblesuit,’ I’m having a relaxing evening,” said Maguire. “I’ll dress up a bit wizardly, but I have a feeling I’ll just blend in with the crowd since I won’t be a recognizable, copyrighted character. And that’s OK.”