Despite forced Friday cancellation, Festival of Wizardry brings thousands to Blyth - Sept. 27, 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
Despite some wild, windy weather on Friday evening, changes to the Festival of Wizardry’s format and time paid off this year.
Nathan Swartz, CEO of Transfigured Town, said the event, which featured wizard-related events and activities from Friday to Sunday at the Blyth Campground and throughout the village, was a success.
“After Friday, we had a great weekend,” he said.
The high winds on Friday resulted in some events being moved into the arena and the ultimate cancellation of the day.
After that hiccup, however, Swartz said the event went over very well.
“Saturday and Sunday were beautiful,” he said. “We were sold out on Saturday and, with tickets at the door, we broke 4,000 tickets on Sunday so we had 10,000 people through the grounds for sure. That’s a great turnout.”
Last year’s festival marked the first time it was held in Blyth and Mother Nature proved less than helpful. Then a two-day event, the Festival was cut in half as a result of high winds on the second day.
Moving the event from October to September was a beneficial change, Swartz said, adding that the third day helped alleviate a lot of concerns throughout the weekend.
Swartz said he received positive comments from almost all the vendors.
“I would say 90 per cent of them felt they had a good time here,” he said. “We had a lot of them sell out, even some return vendors from last year who said they were coming with more stock this year.”
Swartz also pointed to White’s Wands, a company that specializes in magic wands. Instead of coming back as a vendor this year, the company created White’s Wands Wonder Emporium, an interactive display that was very well attended.
Other aspects of the show that were well received, according to Swartz, were the increased number of actors brought to the grounds to add to the authenticity of the event as well as the Hamilton Aerial Group, a troupe of performers who brought creatures to life with stilts and performances throughout the ground.
The quidditch tournament was well-attended, Swartz said, and won by Valhalla Quidditch out of Toronto, the team that claimed the top spot last year as well.
“That wasn’t much of a surprise to people who follow quidditch,” he said. “Half of their 24-player roster played for the quidditch Team Canada team in the World Cup.”
Other events and attractions included themed bubble soccer, archery tag and a bouncy castle-style maze.
Swartz said that Bonnie Wright’s appearance at the event was also a big success.
Wright, who is best known for playing the titular character’s love interest Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise, was a pleasure to work with according to Swartz.
“She was amazing and so down to earth,” he said.
Transfigured Town had sold more than 400 tickets for autograph sessions with the actress and it became clear that wouldn’t fit the time constraints. Swartz said that, while a handful of people did request and receive refunds because of the line-up, Wright requested to stay late to make sure all the autographs were signed.
The actress also took a little bit of Huron County hospitality home with her, Swartz explained, as she enjoyed local fare including Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and Blyth Farm Cheese products in her green room, even taking some dairy products from the latter home with her.
Local vendors played prominently into the weekend, Swartz said, with companies like Huron-Perth Tent Rentals and Bluewater Sanitation helping to make the event a success.
Swartz said that one of the most accommodating companies he worked with was Blyth Printing.
“We made some weird requests, but they made everything happen,” he said.
Swartz pointed to an artifical alley that Transfigured Town wanted to create as an example.
“We had pictures taken in York, England, of the Shambles,” he said. “That was the place that inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.”
The pictures were then printed, near-life size, on vinyl by Blyth Printing, fastened to wooden frames and erected so festival-goers could feel like they were experiencing the real-world locale.
As for the cancellation on Friday, it may have been a blessing for some Festival-goers according to Swartz.
“We offered everyone that was put out on Friday the option of a refund or the chance to come back for the other days of the Festival,” he said.
Swartz said few people took them up on the refund offer, instead deciding to come back for more of the Festival.
Planning has already begun for the 2019 event, which Swartz said he hopes takes place in Blyth.
“I’d love to see it continue in Blyth,” he said. “The community buys in to help out and it’s always nice to bring money from the cities to rural communities when the cash so often flows the other way.”
He pointed to Bev Blair’s Mystic Hollow as one such community initiative as well as Bram Steele, who recently moved to Blyth, who hosted a themed activity on his own property. He also praised the local business owners for setting up themed decorations in their shops and being part of scavenger hunts for the Festival.
For more information on events hosted by Transfigured Town, visit transfiguredtown.com.