Time to grab your wand and brush up on your spells, because local merchants are bringing the Harry Potter universe to Keene.
Starting Tuesday, several of the Elm City’s downtown businesses will be celebrating the beloved novel and film series by transforming Main Street into Diagon Alley — the marketplace Harry Potter visited before traveling to Hogwarts to master the skills of witchcraft and wizardry. Local businesses will be selling Harry Potter-themed goods and treats and hosting events through Sunday.
“It’s going to be a week-long celebration of Harry Potter’s birthday,” said Amy Christiansen-Schoefmann, owner of Eat More Cake, a local bakery that operates out of Life is Sweet in Central Square. “It’s just a magical week for the residents of Keene to enjoy some fun and some food.” According to the books, she noted, Harry Potter was born July 31.
Christiansen-Schoefmann first discovered the Harry Potter series as a young adult when her oldest son developed an interest in the books. She said it’s been a part of their family tradition for a long time.
Life is Sweet has been celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday week for the past several years, but when Christiansen-Schoefmann started doing business out of the shop a few months ago, she said she saw an opportunity to expand upon their tradition. And luckily for her, Christiansen-Schoefmann is friends with Life is Sweet co-owner Shannon Hudley, who she said is also a fan of the series.
They began to reach out to local businesses to see if there was any interest in helping the celebration grow beyond the walls of Life is Sweet. As of Sunday morning, Christiansen-Schoefmann said 13 businesses had agreed to participate, along with a few smaller vendors who will have pop-up shops within other participating businesses.
“Anybody who wants to be a part of it, can be,” she said. “The only rule was that you need to make your store magical.”
For her part, Christiansen-Schoefmann will be preparing Harry Potter-inspired treats, such as Golden Snitch Nutella cake truffles, in a nod to the wizarding world’s favorite pastime — Quidditch. Other participating businesses include restaurants, salons and other establishments that have tailored their offerings or their decor to fit the occasion. More information on participants can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
Activities that will span the entire event include a Butterbeer competition, in homage to a butterscotch-based beverage popular in the books. Different businesses will make a Butterbeer-flavored item, and guests will vote on their favorites. There will also be a costume contest. Participants are asked to still wear masks due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the restaurants participating in the event is Machina Arts: Kitchen and ArtBar. Co-owner Danya Landis said the venue will be transformed into the Three Broomsticks, a pub featured in the series, and will be offering cocktails corresponding with each of the Hogwarts houses. They will also feature a cocktail called the “Felix Felicis” (a reference to a potion from the series), some of which will be made with fruits and flowers from Landis’ own garden.
Machina will also offer some Harry Potter-inspired dishes, including chocolate covered frogs legs (yes, real frog legs). The restaurant will also be competing in the Butterbeer competition. A full menu for the event will be posted to the restaurant’s social media pages later this week.
“When [Christiansen-Schoefmann] asked us to be involved, all of our staff were very excited about the opportunity to think creatively on what we would make that corresponds with the theme,” Landis said Sunday in a text message. “We didn’t realize how many of our employees were such Harry Potter fans! Chef Ryan Nyland and Bar manager Becca Paine have taken the lead in coming up with some amazing food and drink for this event!”
Most of the participating businesses are in Central Square or on Main Street, with a few on Emerald Street. In addition, Keene Cinemas on Key Road will be showing Harry Potter films throughout the week, Christiansen-Schoefmann said.
Christiansen-Schoefmann said all of the businesses involved are also participating in the Keene Safe program, a city initiative that asks stores to pledge that all employees and patrons will be required to wear face coverings and embrace social-distancing guidelines. She said the event was designed to continue through the week to spread out visits and prevent crowds from forming.
There will be two vendors — Beeze Tees Screen Printing and Catbird Flower Farm — which will have masks for sale during the event. The latter will be located inside Soul Emporium.
“This is just about bringing joy and magic to our small town,” Christiansen-Schoefmann said. “We are taking every precaution to make sure our town citizens are safe and able to have a good time without regretting it.”