Asbury Park, NJ : Pottercon 2017
The world of Harry Potter is a magical place filled with fantastic spells, mystical creatures, adventure, and excitement. Every Potterhead has always wanted to be a part of this world. We all wanted to receive our letters from Hogwarts and have created clever reasons why we didn’t get them. My personal favorite is a meme that explains that anyone born between the years 1985-1998 didn’t get their letters because Voldemort destroyed the muggleborn registry. To my Harry Potter crazed surprise, I discovered a con that was geared just for us Potter geeks. It would be a chance to be a part of the Harry Potter universe like we always envisioned. Welcome to Pottercon! This event took place at Asbury Park Convention Hall-a cute 2 floor space that I loved more than the con itself. I’m not going to lie, I had high expectations. They offered events like the Sorting Ceremony, a costume contest, Wizards’ Chess, a House Cup competition, Quidditch Pong, Divination, etc.…expected Harry Potter offerings. I truly thought it was going to be epic. I was terribly let down.
First thing that everyone needs to know about this con is that it’s CASH ONLY! When you try to find this information on their website or Facebook page, this isn’t mentioned at all. As I waited in an EXTERMELY LONG line to get into Pottercon-more on those lovely lines later-, an employee dressed up in a Gryffindor uniform with accompanying robes went section by section to inform us that the bars were cash only. Many people were surprised. I mean most cons these days take card throughout the location. He also informed us that there were only 3 atm machines in the ENTIRE place- 2 outside the hall and 1 (there’s more to this one) inside the hall. Everyone, including me, scrambled to the nearest atm to get some much needed cash only to discover another MASSIVELY LONG line. Now I would later learn this was not the worst one. I ended up leaving that line because it was almost my turn to gain admittance into the con. That was a pretty simple process, although they have a strict NO BOOK BAG policy. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why seeing as there were only 5 venders selling small trinkets out in the open and it would be super obvious if someone was stealing. If I can wear a book bag at Comic Con where real stuff can happen, then I think this little rinky dink affair would’ve been ok.
Now as I mentioned there were lines…everywhere…for everything, however my cohorts and I learned that the one place where there were no lines were the bars upstairs. Maybe everyone was too lazy to take the trek up there for drinks when they were also conveniently sold downstairs. Maybe people didn’t know about the upstairs bars. Either way there was no wait there. Because I made the ridiculous assumption that cards would be accepted, I needed to get some quick cash from the atm. This simple in and out task took an hour to complete. Remember I told you the would-be Gryffindor employee announced there were only 3 atms? Well there was actually 4…but one was broken. It also just so happened to be next to the other atm with the EXTREMELY LONG line that had the EXTREMELY LONG wait. It gets even better. Not only was there one machine, but it took forever for the machine to connect to whatever those machines connect to in order to give you the money you so desperately need. I won’t lie, there were some idiots that held up the line because I swear they’ve never used an atm before…or maybe they were just shocked at how little money they had to spend and needed to contemplate about that fact at that particular moment. A few people decided that was the right time and place to conduct their social hour. Regardless their reasons, they held up the line with their nonsense. For the most part, it was the machine making people nervously wait for their money. At some point people were afraid the machine ran out of that cold hard cash we waited all eternity for.
What was nice were the Pottercon employees asking everyone in the atm line if they had placed their names in for the Sorting Ceremony, handing out cards for people to fill out right there, and personally placing them in the cauldrons. It was nice to know that they cared enough to make sure us poor people in line were included in the most anticipated event of the day. Luckily for me, one of the people I went with filled out a card with my name on it. With your entry, you received a plastic diamond to place in your house cup. At the end of Pottercon, the house with the most stones would have money donated to the charity that was associated with them. You can also get the stones from participating in one of the other activities taking place throughout the hall. I liked the idea that at the end of all this Harry Potter merriment, there was some good being done as well.
The Sorting Ceremony was a let down. The ceremony was supposed to be an hour but it started late and it was more like 45 minutes. They called a name, that person went up, they asked said person two questions, and from there the audience was to determine which house the person belonged to by shouting it out. They had an awesome Snape impersonator that would make the final decision, which was much needed because there were times when the crowd had different opinions. There was one thing I didn’t like about fake Snape decisions. When the crowd CLEARLY says one house, imposter Snape would decide to go with a different house because they have a shirt that says *insert house name* on it. They only called maybe 10 names out of the 2 cauldrons filled with name cards. In the end, it was a colossal waste of time.
I bet people are wondering, “Did she say bars?” Yes I did. At Pottercon they do sell alcoholic beverages, weak alcoholic beverages, but they’re drinks nevertheless. The pricing was what I expected (ex. Butterbeer was $10) but we were informed by the same people that told us about the upstairs bar that the lovely people at Pottercon were trying to swindle us. You see there was a reason why they didn’t make people aware that there were 2 bars upstairs. The drinks are the same prices in both the upstairs and downstairs bars, however, they serve you the drinks in smaller cups at the downstairs bars. You actually get half the amount downstairs than you do upstairs. Of course I wanted bang for my buck so I hightailed it upstairs. The drink menu consists of a few Harry Potter drinks, such as butterbeer and firewhiskey, with a Pottercon twist. I ordered the butterbeer and while the flavor was good, I wanted a kick. This is strictly my opinion because I happen to prefer strong drinks. The cool thing is that the menu tells you what’s in each drink so you can make it at home. I plan on recreating the butterbeer with a stronger vodka and maybe something else…
There was food but nothing fancy. Pricing was similar to the drinks. The one item that blew my mind were the turkey wings. Those things were gigantic! If I liked turkey I would’ve ordered them, but alas I got a good ole corndog instead. Both were $5, but you get more for your money with the turkey wings. They had Hufflepuff popcorn (regular popcorn) and mudblood snow cones-snow cones with a flavoring that comes in red. I don’t know if it was cherry or strawberry. Both were $5 as well. That’s about it. There wasn’t much of a variety and since they banned outside food, you had to eat their fare if you were hungry.
Upstairs they had an assortment of activities. There was quidditch pong which was regular beer pong minus the beer plus hoops. They had divination, which every Potterhead knows is the magical equivalent to tarot. So what did they have for divinations you might ask? You guessed it…TAROT CARD READINGS!!! There was another excessively long line for this and I would be afraid to guess how long those people had been waiting there. At the other end of the second floor there was wand making and trivia. The trivia was a good combo of easy, medium, and hard Harry Potter facts to make you think. You can do it solo or in teams. The top 15 had the opportunity to move on to the finals. My team got 10 out of 20 answers right, so we were nowhere near in the running but we did get another one of those plastic diamond stones. YAY!!! The wand making area was pretty much an arts and crafts station. You pay $5 to get a bamboo stick to decorate with paints, glitter, and pipe cleaners. It was a simple, fun way to make a souvenir.
If you’re looking for a multitude of vendors hawking their stuff, then don’t try too hard. There was a section just outside the hall appropriately named Diagon Alley with 6 vendors. As far as I know only one took cards. The wares were decent. I particularly liked the wands, the buttons, and these cool necklaces. While all of these items were nice, they were overpriced. If the wands were $10 cheaper, I might have purchased one.
I arrived at Pottercon at 2 and left about 4:15. I was prepared to stay until 8 but once my fellow accompanying Potter heads and I realized we saw everything and did everything we wanted to (watched the sorting, had a butterbeer and a corndog, played a round of trivia, and take everything in), we were ready to go. We all had the same feeling when we stepped out of the door of the convention hall-at least we had the chance to take part in the experience. We were glad we went but we wouldn’t do it again. To be fair, Pottercon takes place in different locations throughout the country. What went on in Asbury Park may not take place somewhere else. I might be willing to try Pottercon again, just not here in NJ.