“We all look like losers, so we’re all winners!” said a girl in Gryffindor robes redrawing her lightning bolt scar in the bathroom mirror at PotterCon, a giant Harry Potter convention at the Bell House this Saturday. By “we,” she meant the hundreds of people in round glasses and striped ties who waited on a three-hour line in the July heat to get into this magical cosplay party.
For some of the attendees, PotterCon, a 21+ event, was an excuse to day-drink–the bar served Phoenix Tears, Fire Whiskey, and Butterbeer, which tasted like melted Werther’s Originals mixed with rubbing alcohol. For others, it was their one annual opportunity to unite with local Harry Potter obsessives and dress up as their favorite characters without getting strange looks. “I can’t believe I’m wearing this and I don’t feel weird!” said the Gryffindor girl in the bathroom. This adult convention offered a singular venue for such Pottheads to wear their shared obsession with pride.
“Magic is so real. If I go too long without magic, I start to suffer,” comedy writer Margaret Kaminski, founder of PotterCon, says. “People cast you off as an idiot if you say you believe in magic. But it’s like, you’re telling me magic doesn’t exist, but you have no proof it doesn’t exist. I’m telling you magic does exist, but I have no proof it does exist. So we’re tied.”
These convictions inspired Kaminski, 25, to start PotterCon three years ago. She’d found there were no events in Brooklyn where fellow HP freaks of drinking age could convene, so she threw a Harry Potter party with 10 friends at a local bar. “Nowadays, there are a lot of Harry Potter parties, but most of them are kid-friendly, like, let’s go do some crafts!” she says. “But there was no way for people our age to get together, grab a butterbeer, and talk about Harry Potter. And who loves Harry Potter more than people our age?” The series has particular significance for people in their mid-20s, who came of age with the characters in the books–they were the same age as Harry, Hermione, and Ron. “We read the first Harry Potter book just in time to stay up all night on our eleventh birthdays waiting for an owl. We get it more than anyone else gets it,” Kaminski says. She was not wrong: Her party of 10 friends soon evolved into a huge event. This year, the 400 advance sale tickets to the event sold out within a week, and the line for tickets at the door stretched down the block.
Kaminski describes the PotterCon crowd as “50% normal people who just want to get drunk, 50% people who make you wonder how they exist for the other 364 days of the year.” For this second category, Harry Potter fandom is more than a hobby; it’s an identity. While the reality of sweaty people packed into a Gowanus bar can’t live up to the fantasy of J.K. Rowling’s world, Kaminski and her co-hosts did their best to make it almost as good. Throwing your name into the Goblet of Fire meant you’d get sorted into Hogwarts Houses in a live ceremony, hosted by a wasted Dumbledore and an MC who repeatedly lamented the lack of sex ed in the Hogwarts curriculum. A trivia contest, hosted by last year’s winning trivia team, the Remembralls, let superfans show off their series knowledge. There was a costume contest, won by Ashley Seltzer, who dressed up as Luna Lovegood, wearing an intricate Gryffindor lion’s head she spent five hours making from papier-mâché. Fleur Delaceur took second place; Hermione at the Yule Ball won third.
Kaminski, who has a Deathly Hallows ankle tattoo, clarifies that she’s seeking to create a forum for deep-cut Potter talk: “I don’t mean, like, ‘Draco’s bad, I hate Voldemort!'” she says. “I want a place where people can be like, ‘If Albus Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the entire world, how did he not know that his best friend, Mad Eye Moody, was a fake for a whole year? How is that possible?’”
All photos by Mark Davis.