Last night we had the opportunity to attend the Harry Potter Party in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park. The party was put on by a local independently run bookstore called McNally Robinson. Although I will admit I usually do my book shopping on Amazon or at Chapters (due to convenience) I have had the pleasure of entering this store on occasion and will say it’s amazing. Even though I was not able to pick up a copy of the book (not in the unemployment budget, sadly) I still was excited to check out the event: even scrounging together enough cash to maybe grab the kids a pack of Bertie Bots Ever Flavoured Beans.

Yesterday also happened to be my mom’s birthday, so we had dinner over at her place before donning my Ravenclaw scarf and heading out. After a 45 minute drive entirely comprised of me lamenting my lack of full costume we arrived just after 9pm (the party began at 9). Staff directed our vehicle to one of several signed, designated parking areas in an extremely organized manner. We did have to wait a bit in “line” to find a spot (traffic was slow moving) but this was to be expected driving into an event like this. Besides, there’s Poksestops along the way and we were going slow enough to hatch my eggs. My only issue was a Clefairy spawned for my daughter but not me and I’m still mad, but sadly that’s out of McNally Robinson’s control.

Once we reached the party there were different coloured lights in the sky, decent enough music, and lots and lots of witches and wizards. One thing became very apparent and I’m pretty confident the first thing out of my mouth was “wow, they got a way bigger turn out than they expected.” Every single pavilion was lines lines lines lines lines.

Making our way to the well decorated platform 9 3/4″ (Lyric Stage) we surveyed just how bad the damage was. Pushing the stroller through the field we struggled to tell where lines began and ended and which was for which tent. It was oddly reminiscent of the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic hosted in the same location to celebrate the Children’s Hospital where the twins stayed. The same event we chose to skip this year to avoid standing in lines for hours and not getting to do a whole lot with the kids.

Still, we came to an event to enjoy it and popped in the line that seemed most kid friendly: Defense Against the Dark Arts. After a 45 minute wait we were able to witness the dragon, whose name was to be voted on all evening, already reach the max goal and be officially named. Inside, the tent was well organized and stocked and the staff members were patient and friendly. Everyone else seemed to be respectful too, especially of the children. After we completed our crafts, which were imaginative and fun, we decided it was time to take the now overtired and screaming twins back home. We never bought anything simply because we were physically unable to.

The party was to run from 9pm to 12am. Here are some things I overheard:

  • By 10 they had run out of the $5 per slice Harry Potter birthday cake
  • Apparently earlier in the evening they had other treats which sold out faster
  • Just after 10 they reached enough votes to name the dragon
  • Parking didn’t fill but it came very close

We had fun going to people watch and really didn’t mind standing in line terribly. If the twins hadn’t been fussing it would have been better, but that’s on us. An evening event also meant the weather was cooler but it was also more difficult to keep track of the kids once it got dark. Our biggest disappointment was the lines because we really wanted to check out the other tents.

I would love to see them put on another event like this in the future but with more to do or even doubling up on the same tents to cut down on lines. I think another Harry Potter event, possibly paid for by ticket sales, would lend itself well to Winnipeg – clearly the fans were there.

After checking out McNally and Robinson’s Facebook page this morning I was disappointed to see how many people were very angry about the event. Not only was it completely free other than food or merch, they also shared that the estimated turnout was about 10 thousand and they had double. Double! It was still well organized, wonderfully decorated, and well staffed. I hope that the book store ignores the negative reviews and does its best to admire the hard work that goes into event planning. I know first hand you will never do it good enough for some people.

This small town boy and long time Harry Potter fanatic was thrilled to live near a city once again.