A Bewitching Literary Treat:

Amanda McKeon

Who hasn’t been enraptured by the mystery, magic and intrigue of Harry, Hogwarts and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Upon penning her first installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling cast a spell over millions of readers that extended not just to children, but to a broader audience. From the attendance at and enthusiasm for Colgate’s Harry Potter-athon, it is clear that Rowling’s charms have enchanted the Colgate community.

The event involved a reading of the second book in the series – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – by Colgate students and other members of the community and took place on Friday, February 29, at the Hamilton Public Library. Students, as well as other members of the community, volunteered to read different chapters of Harry’s saga to a beguiled audience of children, students and adults alike. HCSElementary Principal Kevin Ellis and Fran Sheridan began the reading, followed by a host of students, children, Mayor Sue Vaughn, teachers, local clergy and Colgate Paraprofessional Cataloguer Adger Williams and Charles A. Dana Professor of History Andy Rotter.

The mix of readers demonstrates the different threads of the community that came together to help make this exciting occasion so successful.

Organizer of the event and Colgate junior Shannon Young reiterated this point.

“The event brought together the Colgate and Hamilton communities in a fun event revolving around a terrific story,” Young said. “It was great to see the kids reading aloud alongside the teachers and Colgate students.”

Associate Professor of Religion Georgia Frank and Colgate juniors Shannon Young, Susan Anderson and Kelly Henderson were in charge of planning and running the event. This is the second year that Colgate sponsored a Harry Potter-athon: last year students read the first book in the series. The idea for the original read-athon came from organizer Shannon Young’s previous marathon readings of The Odyssey, The Illiad and The Aeneid.

The read-athon drew a sizable crowd which Professor Frank described as the “biggest turnout yet.”

Young explained that the crowds were larger earlier in the day.

“For the first few hours of the event, there were nearly thirty children and their parents gathered around the readers as they unfolded the magical story,” Young said.

While the event started during the afternoon, it lasted well into the early hours of Saturday. Though the sizable crowd of the afternoon dispersed, a few avid fans remained alert and eager to hear the final chapters of Harry’s plight which ended at 2:40 a.m.

Sophomore Ashley Lazevnick, who took over reading at 1 a.m., described the mood of the read-athon.

“I read at a late time,” Lazevnick said, “but those listening were still avidly enthusiastic to hear the rest of the story.”

Her description fits with the general excitement indelibly attached to Harry Potter.

Other Harry Potter-themed activities accompanied the reading. There was a costume competition judged by Konosioni which drew a number of strong competitors, dressed head-to-toe in wizard attire. In addition, the Colgate Fencing Club held fencing demonstration, using sabers, for the crowd which was meant to emulate dueling and was read prior to a chapter on Harry’s dueling society. Young also enthusiastically described that “the kids got to play a game of Quidditch with a quaffle (aka piñata)”.

Young enumerated on the read-athon’s focus on children in the community and promoting reading among them.

“The event is meant to promote the love and enjoyment of reading to young kids,” Young said.

Young also added that the playful dramatics of some readers further serve to encourage an affection of reading because they provide memories to cherish.

“[These are] moments [that] show that reading can be a lot of fun, and there are more ways to appreciate literature than just sitting down and reading silently,” Young said.

Between the enthusiastic readings and the creative costumes, Harry Potter-athon artfully spellbound its attendees, making it impossible for listeners to resist losing themselves within the world of magic. As Professor Frank aptly described it, the read-athon was “a perfect escape from a week’s winter storms.”