By Megan Stump
Harry Potter Celebration is one of my favorite times of year, and this year was no exception. In 2015 I was invited to the Social Media meet-up by a friend. I didn’t think anything could top that. I was able to meet James and Oliver Phelps, talk with MinaLima and Alan Gilmore about Diagon Alley, and ride Escape from Gringotts basically by ourselves. It was a fantastic time, and Celebration was basically a dream.
Then about a month ago, Universal announced another Social Media meet-up. I entered on the first go, and in a few days I was notified that I won. Immediately I decided on bringing my friend Ann Marie since Celebration is kind of our “thing”. I had no idea what to expect and, even with a second email, all I knew is that we were going to be in Universal for almost five hours with a lunch break.
We showed up to the front of Universal at 7:30AM to get our credentials and managed to be the first ones there. I figured there was going to be a long line like some of the Disney meet-ups, but no one else was around. We came back around 8AM and met up with Meg and Kara from Slug Club, as well as some other friends that we knew were going to be there. At 8:25 we were brought into the park through a special entrance with the Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) social media team and two VIP tour guides. It was then we were told that we were going to be taken through the day of a Hogwarts student. Off we went towards the Expo entrance.
When we arrived, we were told we were going to be sorted into our Hogwarts house. If you’ve never done or seen the Sorting Hat ceremony, a Universal team member brings you up and asks you some questions about yourself. If you have a specific house you feel tied to, they will ask you that as well. If you don’t, you usually end up with either Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. After we were all sorted, we took the opportunity of no one else around to take a crazy selfie with the Sorting hat and its attendant!
The tour guides took us to the London Waterfront where we talked about Grimmauld Place and then about the entrance to Leaky Cauldron and why we end up going through the brick wall to the side of Leaky (purely capacity issues). We then walked into Diagon where we were taken over to the backside of Ollivander’s and divided into two groups to go through the wand experience. Meg was with us and ended up being chosen! Usually at the end of the wand ceremony, the assistant tells you about your “options” but this day we were just walked through the shop with the chosen students getting to keep their wands. I admit I was kind of bummed at first, but it wasn’t for long.
They took us straight into Madame Malkin’s where we were told we were there to be fitted for our robes. I couldn’t believe it but we were all handed robes based on the houses we were sorted into at the beginning. Each of us was also given a wand based on our houses. Gryffindors received Ginny Weasley’s wand, Ravenclaw received Luna Lovegood’s, Slytherin were given Severus Snape’s and Hufflepuff… Fleur Delacour…? We still haven’t figured out why that was the wand for the ‘Puffs, but hey…free wand! The “students’ that had been chosen were given the wand that had chosen them in Ollivander’s. I’m pretty sure I’m still in shock from this. At this point I did the standard Megan thing and burst into tears. One of the UOR social media team members gave me a hug that was greatly needed. At this point, the day wasn’t even half over and it had been the best meetup I had ever been to.
Lunch took place at the Leaky Cauldron of course. Each of us received a Gilly Water, an entrée and any beverage that was non-alcoholic. I could have tried any dish, but I stuck with good old fish and chips and my favorite Wizarding World drink – the Lemon Squash. (Yes I love it more than butterbeer. It’s more refreshing and I can drink it without getting on a sugar high!)
After lunch, we were taken over to Islands of Adventure by way of the Hogwarts Express. Our group had our own car and had an exciting moment when the Dementors showed up. I’m fairly certain the cars on each side of us could hear us screaming. We were clearly having way too much fun. When we got over to Hogsmeade station, we thought we would be heading over to Hogwarts but they brought us to the front of the park. Near Confisco’s and the Crescent Moon Bakery is a little gate that is the entrance to the Navigator’s Club. It usually takes a special event to get up there and, if you watched the webcasts that the cast recorded that weekend, that’s where they were filming! We went upstairs and were given a wand master class by Paul Harris who was the wand choreographer for the movies. He kept telling us to cast WITH VENOM to the point our friend Felipe sent his camera’s lens case flying with all the venom he could muster.
We were asked for a group photo with Paul Harris and, as we were all scattering, Matt Lewis, Evanna Lynch and Rupert Grint came into the room! We were all in shock, but I decided to open my big mouth and reminded Matt that we had had a conversation during Potterwatch in summer 2014. They all had us get together for a photo. I was lucky enough to be standing right behind Rupert and Paul. After the photo was over, I asked Rupert if I could get a selfie before they left, and quickly snapped it before the stars were whisked away. It happened so fast! I was the only one to get any photos or anything. I could barely walk down the stairs I was shaking so hard, but managed to make it without falling.
They took us over to Hogwarts and we rode Forbidden Journey for our last bit of the event. Afterwards, we were taken to the Three Broomsticks and given a Chocolate Frog to combat the sad feeling the Dementors left us with during the ride as well as a souvenir stein filled with cold butterbeer. Before our last picture in front of Hogwarts, we were given a 1-day 2 park ticket and VIP express passes for the rest of the day.
For as many Disney and Universal blog meetups I have attended, this one was truly the most amazing. I still can’t believe that we were given this opportunity. I was so glad that I was able to share it with people who absolutely loved Harry Potter as much as I do! I can’t thank the Universal Social Media team enough for this event. I’m happy that I wasn’t the only Slug Club member who got to experience this!