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Exclusive report from ‘Azkatraz’ Exclusive report from ‘Azkatraz’

azkatrazRecently, Harry Potter Fan Zone’s own Toni and David Gras attended Azkatraz 2009, a Harry Potter symposium. An exclusive report from the event can be found below.

Magic in the Air Fog

A review of the AZKATRAZ conference

By  Toni and David Gras – Cleveland, Ohio

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1124765@N21/

From Thursday, July 16 – Tuesday, July 21,2009 HPEF (Harry Potter Educational Fanon) hosted it’s sixth conference. Instead of the sizzling and sultry Texas where the PORTUS conference took place last year, we moved to the cooling coast of California to San Francisco. The creative title of the conference, AZKATRAZ, is a combination of two names — Azkaban (the infamous prison in the Potter books) and Alcatraz (the federal prison on an island in San Francisco Bay). The creativity of the title was only the beginning of the ingenuity that flowed within the walls of the Parc 55 hotel located in the middle of bustling Union Square, just a stone’s throw from the cable cars and a beautiful view away from San Francisco Bay and its famous fog, which simply added to the fantasy and dream-like atmosphere of the conference.

It should be noted that the actual conference commenced on July 18, but there were pre-conference events that made up the two days prior to the conference start. The first was the viewing of the “Half Blood Prince” movie at midnight on Thursday, July 16. A line party preceded the movie to gear everyone up for the viewing at a local theatre. Directly following was a LeakyMug podcast into the wee hours of the morning. On Friday, July 17, Quidditch matches took place at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as well as the Wrock Around the Rock cruise in the evening which took passengers on a 4-hour dinner cruise around Alcatraz Island while Wizard Rock groups played the night away.

On Saturday the conference kicked off with the Welcome to the Big House Luncheon Feast. The vendor room opened with Whimsic Alley, Zossima Books, Beyond Boundaries Travel, and other magical boutiques offering their wares. The Fandom Craft Faire was featured on Saturday afternoon with various Potter crafters. The Gallery Dungeon of Fire displayed artistic items by Potter fans.

Over 100 presentations throughout the weekend offered a myriad of topics – there was something for everyone to listen to and participate in – some notable presentations included prominent HP presenters such as…author and blogger John Granger of Hogwarts Professor who presented “Eyes of Deathly Hallows: Harry Potter’s Corrected and Transforming Vision”, author and webmaster Travis Prinzi of The Hogs Head who presented “The Postmodern Potions Master” and author and webmaster Steve VanderArk of The Harry Potter Lexicon who presented “Welcome to the Wizarding World”.

Other presentations displayed titles such as “Dark Side of Fandom”, “Draco’s Difficult Decision”, “Science of Harry Potter”, “The (Possible) Domestication of House-Elves” and our own David Gras presented “The Well-Organized Mind: Death and What Comes After” along with Dr. Gareth Fisher with John Granger moderating.

The “Prison Break Ball” took place Sunday evening and this was a golden opportunity for everyone to dress for the occasion. A fashion show preceded the ball. People especially loved the duel that ensued between Dumbledore and Voldemort during the ball. Excitement filled the air as attendees enjoyed the music, snacks and potions drinks created just for our group.

The keynote luncheon featured Eddie Newquist, president of Branded Entertainment at Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, the creative and innovative company behind HARRY POTTER: THE EXHIBITION, which is now open at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. A film was included which whet everyone’s appetite to plan their next trip to Chicago!

A special treat was having actor Chris Rankin, who plays Percy Weasley in the movies, as a special guest. There were times se aside to meet and greet Chris during photo and autograph sessions, a Q & A session, Dessert with Chris, a podcast with Chris and he even sat in on the “Deconstructing Percy” roundtable discussion Sunday afternoon! Chris was one busy person that weekend!

Speaking of Chris Rankin, we are thrilled to report that we did a special one-on-one interview with Chris just for HPFZ – look for the link on this web site to view that video! We thank him wholeheartedly for giving up valuable “down time” during a very hectic conference just for us – thanks again Chris!

Many MANY other special events kept people busy the entire conference and wishing we did not require sleep! Some of these included…

  • Pajama party
  • Wrock opera
  • Doll tea party
  • Convict theatre
  • Craft Fair
  • Masters of Potter Administration (MPA) programming off-site (business people in the Potter world)
  • Podcast Palooza with various web sites such as Spellcast, Hogwarts Radio, Hogshead, HP Progs, and more (yes, Chris Rankin was involved, as well!)
  • Fan fiction readings
  • A Mugglenet release party
  • Non-stop in-room Harry Potter movies on channel 21 courtesy of the Parc 55!
  • Potter potions at the luncheons, dinners and even in the hotel public bar!
  • And more that is not listed here!

One important facet of this conference that deems mention are that the auction and certain percentages of registration fees went towards charities which HPEF supports, including Harry Potter Alliance, Amnesty International, and Kids Need to Read.

HPEF staff officials involved in the planning of this symposium include Gwendolyn Grace, Aziza Aba Butain, HeidiTandy, Bekki Olivieri, Flourish Klink, among others, and we would like to personally thank each and everyone (especially Aziza!) for their graciousness towards us.

To summarize, any conference that HPEF coordinates gives the attendee SO MUCH to choose from in elegant up-scale surroundings in beautiful cities.. so if you are a Harry Potter fan, why have you not attended one???

You will have another chance next year (but don’t put it off!) — INFINITUS 2010 – MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR JULY 15-18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida –just in time for the opening of Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Who could ask for more?

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