‘A Night at Hogwarts’ draws 150 to promote reading

Cheri Smith, transformed into a goblin banker at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, trades Muggles’ cash for galleons.

Cheri Smith, transformed into a goblin banker at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, trades Muggles’ cash for galleons.
Cheri Smith, transformed into a goblin banker at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, trades Muggles’ cash for galleons.
RANGELY I Rangely’s inaugural “A Night at Hogwarts” program drew more than 150 children and parents to Parkview Elementary School on Friday, raising approximately $1,200 for next year’s Harry Potter-themed literacy event.
Ryan and Merilee Slack, who attended the event with their four boys, Andrew, 9, Jeffrey, 7, Doug, 5, and Finian, 3, weren’t sure what they would find beyond the building’s stone-clad Hogwarts entrance.
“I expected a school carnival like the ones I grew up with,” Merilee Slack said. “It was much better. I really felt like the school went to a lot of work to make it happen. And the boys had an awesome time.”
Slack said she appreciated that the $10 family admission and extras like the photo booth and snacks stayed within their budget, adding that the quality of entertainment was worth the cost. She dubbed the Ravenclaw Challenge, an interactive skit put on by retired Parkview principal Mary Lansing and Rangely Middle School instructor Kari Enke, a highlight of the evening.
A potions class hosted by third-grade teacher Pam Brady and Title I instructor Paula Miller was another hit. Lines stretching down the hallway prompted the addition of another session, with children getting priority to see the “ghost bubbles” demonstration.
In addition to a towering Rubeus Hagrid played by Parkview parent Rodger Polley and an imposing Professor Snape (Kurt Douglas) taking a night off from teaching to hand out Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, plenty of children came dressed for the night, including the Slacks’ two oldest boys, who could have passed for slightly younger versions of Potter himself.
In anticipation of A Night at Hogwarts, Jeffrey Slack and friend Macy Morgan had been reading portions of a Harry Potter book together, then acting out various scenes.
Those kinds of activities may be spurred on even more now.
“We’ve watched the movies,” Slack said. “But I think ‘A Night at Hogwarts’ sparked some interest for us to read the books.”
The program’s expressed focus of encouraging literacy took shape at a book table hosted by the Rangely Library. Library Director Amorette Hawkins and storyteller Rita Reich invited children to thumb through popular fantasy books and held drawings for free books and literacy-related gear.
“Our booth was busy the whole night, which was great,” Hawkins said. “We just wanted to promote reading and encourage people who didn’t use the library to check it out. It was a great opportunity to do both.”
Since spring, dozens of Parkview employees and several community members have worked individually and in small groups to bring Hogwarts to life. Each person or group took charge of different elements, which meant that second-grade teacher and event organizer Vicki Douglas didn’t know how the disparate parts would fit together until Friday morning.
As participants arrived to set up and decorate their respective areas, Douglas realized the vision was coming together.
“It was just great; everything came together really well,” Douglas said. “Everyone who was involved came really prepared and outdid themselves.”
Hogwarts professor of divination Sybill Trelawney, played by third-grade teacher Becky Bertoch, hosted a Care of Magical Creatures hall on the building’s west end that included preserved and living creatures. Children were invited to watch or touch a living turtle, hissing cockroaches, a bearded dragon and two corn snakes, among other animals.
“Some of the kids were a bit scared, but most were OK with touching the snakes,” Bertoch said. “It was interesting to watch the adults because most weren’t as accepting. I had one mom who was terrified; she wouldn’t even come down the hallway because of the snakes. Later, she came back and actually held one.”
In the preschool classroom just off the hallway, younger children chose from a variety of owl-related crafts, the braver among them dissecting owl pellets to find and reconstruct rodent skeletons. Those ready for more physical contact lined up for the Quidditch games, coordinated by Colorado Northwestern Community College’s LeaderTrek learning community students.
It was, Bertoch said, the perfect opportunity for staff to collaborate on a shared task.
“Somebody said, ‘This is the best team-building activity we’ve done,’” she said. “People just jumped in. If they didn’t have a part, they got involved and helped somebody else. “
As Douglas reflects on the success of this year’s event, noting special thanks to Parkview staff and community helpers, she’s already planning for the next Night at Hogwarts.
A few unexpected twists, like more people wanting to attend the potions class than were able to or some booths running out of items by the night’s end, have prompted pages of notes about how to streamline some elements and improve others.
“There are things we’ll do differently, but it was all way over my expectations,” Douglas said. “I think that the excitement of Harry Potter carries over even after the event is finished.”