This was Vancouver’s very first Harry Potter themed event. The closest thing and way to gather all fans of the wizarding world to engage under one roof. So when the event was advertised and tickets went on sale my friends and I purchased ours at the top dollar price of $240, including taxes. Therefore I went it expecting a lot. It was good for the most part, but I did not leave feeling like I got my money’s worth.
Given that Harry Potter is a licensed and copy writed character they couldn’t directly come out and say it was an event honouring the boy wizard, instead they titled festivities a “Wizard’s brunch”. And on the night called on all wizards like Merlin and Gandalf from all magical worlds.
I enjoyed the idea and liked the ability to dress up and play make believe with a group of like minded individuals. There were plenty of photo ops and the setting was done right, but there was not enough to do and to keep everyone engaged throughout. We found ourselves lapping the banquet hall for the sake of keeping busy.
The event hosted two separate seatings, the actual brunch was in the day and best suited for children. So we selected the dinner service with an emphasis on drinking, at a greater ticket cost.
Dinner began at 7pm but for those who came to the convention centre earlier, they were treated to games, photo booths, props for photo ops, and live owls to hold. All of which remained out side the grand hall, for guests to enjoy once the dinner had started. A giant chess board with pieces the size of tall toddlers. Bean bags you toss into corn holes. Wooden dominoes, ring toss with glass bottles, and an oversized connect four game. We played with them all, but they weren’t specifically wizard related or all that magical. I am guessing they use these for all the events they host because it was fun for the most part.
For a look at the above and to watch the more dynamo highlight reel of the night, check out my latest YouTube video, now up on my channel: MaggiMei.
What was more Harry Potter related was the stacks of old timey luggage that made great props and backdrops. And there were “brick wall” cut outs, but no platform 9 3/4 to stand in front of. There were cardboard frames to stand behind and to hold up around your face. One had you as a “famous wizard”, the other made you wanted, asking “have you seen this wizard?”
The phone booth gave things a British feel, and the suspended broom prop made it seem like you were floating, although difficult to get on and off of. Each station was great, but it would have been nice to have staff helping to take photos for groups, and directing individuals for the best poses.
But hands down the best lines were the ones waiting to hold, pet, and take a photo with an owl. There were 3 different species, each with its own look. I have never been this close to an owl and emotionally it was a treat, they are so magical by nature.
As for dinner seating, your name is listed alphabetically across several easels, you use them to find out where you are stationed. Although you actually selected this before hand, signing up for what “house” you want to represent. They were 3 out of 4 of the original Harry Potter house colours, but with completely different house masters and different mascot animals. The latter would be revealed to us as the banquet began.
Dinner was called and we took our seats in the great hall, and this scene did not disappoint. The ceiling was hung with floating candles and “flying” sheets of paper. There was plenty of whimsy, wide eyed wonder, and camera clicks. Seating is your choice, any where on your assigned table, in your “house”. In our “colours” we would spend the night completing for points and cheering for our team. All for the win of the “treasured house cup – the one cup to rule them all!”
House Brigit was red, and it’s Head of house is Master Ambrosia. House Arawn was purple, it’s head of house is Master Frick. House Morrigan wore Green with its Head of house was Master Mordred. And House Dagda was designated blue, with its Head of house Master Gaius. We sat in “blue” and were rewarded the win for our choice. My friend choose it, aligning herself with the studious Ravenclaw, which I deemed why we won: we were seated in the “smart house”. Although my other friend wore red and yellow for Gryffindor, and I followed my heart and my favourite colour in my choice to be Slytherin.
The night began with welcoming introductions from the above and below cast of characters. Actors took on roles in full costume and accents. There was Merlin the head master and seven teachers of both the old and new orders. From the invite: “Our Master Merlin is a Grey Wizard and the only one in the Coven who is capable of restoring balance and order. Our other members comprise of both the light and shadow sides of magic. Lady Nimue is the Mistress of the Light, where Lady Morgana Le Fay is the mistress of the Shadow side”.
Throughout the night there was on stage entertainment, although the stage was small compared to the expanse of the banquet hall and there were very limited “good seats”. Thankfully there was a live feed and filming, and each performance was broadcasted on to one of the large screens around the hall.
There were silk rope dancer/acrobats to start off the night. And an orchestra playing as we enjoyed our appetizers and entrees that came at the same time.
Fire dancers shocked and awe with spinning flames and choreographed routines. And the magician not only amazed us, but he made us laugh as well.
There was also a tarot card reader off stage, but it was poorly advertised and hard to hear her reading.
I wanted more such entertainment and less of the scripted banter between house masters. The fake rivalry and over the top “emotions”. I didn’t want to know the characters back stories or their dynamic with one another. None the less we watched spell classes where an actor was levitated and held there. And potions class where smoke bombs were followed by an invitation to visit the cash bar for your own “potion”.
Entry included a drink ticket each. You redeem it any of their bar stations for wine, beer, or a non alcoholic themed drink. I had the latter to get into the spirit. “The Wizard’s Brew”, a concoction of ginger ale, whipped cream and rainbow coloured candy. Mine had tangy nerds candy, other glasses were topped with sweet tarts or jelly beans.
As for the food, the convention centre catered, and I was disappointed by the quality for the venue and the cost. They could have done more with dinner. Having the food more representative of the theme. You could have this exact meal at any wedding, held at this convention centre. I wanted the desserts dressed like golden snitches and the cakes decorated with more magic in mind. The main could have been Cornish game hens and pheasants, to better represent the period we were in.
Served family style the following appetizers were passed around. “House baked rolls” with balls of butter. A little hard, but nothing extra butter couldn’t help along.
The “Cornish pastries” were empanadas filled with chicken and potato. They were a little dry and the flavour fairly bland. They could have used a sauce or some dip for kick, but at least the texture of the pastry was good.
The “mixed greens” were pretty standard, leafy greens, grape tomatoes, and shaved fennel. I didn’t try any of it, but from looks alone, I could tell this lacked enough English dressing to coat and flavour the salad.
The “herb, garlic chicken wings” were over cooked and lacked seasonings. However they were still my favourite dish of the night; and that says a lot.
For entrees everyone got the plated short rib, unless otherwise specified. This was “Merlot braised Canadian angus beef short rib”, vegetable mirepoix, porcini sauce, tricoloured roasted potatoes, and market vegetable”. This too was dry and hard, the inevitability of mass produced plates serving hundreds of people. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even finish my serving. The strands of beef were dried, the sauce flat, and the vegetable a little undercooked.
For dessert you had your choice between 4 small bites, or simply indulging in all 4. The “sticky toffee” was self served by the slice, as a cake. This was my favourite of the desserts. Not too sweet, it was more caky sponge than sticky toffee, which I preferred.
Similar in texture was the “double chocolate cupcake” with chocolate buttercream.
But if you want your chocolate fix you would like the “whiskey hazelnut praline”. The menu listed it as being topped with popping candy, but I did not get that. Overall too chocolatey rich for my taste.
I enjoyed the “vanilla panna cotta” with raspberry gelee and peach compote. It was pretty decent, a nice tart and tangy palate cleanser, with creamy jello-like texture and sticky sweet syrup.
The night drew to a close with a trivia round. Each house sought out their champion through a series of questions. The winner competed, representing their house and earning it points. The question not only included Harry Potter trivia but contestants were also quizzed on their fandom of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” as well.
There were also physical challenges for volunteers, a way to earn a last bout of points. Competing contestants were asked to fill “orbs of deceptions” (balloons) with their own breath and then try to break it by sitting on them. Then there were challenged to commit “Consumption without arms”, eating Oreos off of their own foreheads.
There was also dancing, chanting, and cheering hosted by the “dance master”, “Justin Tempo”, who doubled as the event’s hype man. He got the party started with beats and singing. He was the most entertaining and natural of all the actors, and I couldn’t help but play along.
And finally they awarded those who came dressed the best. The best in show amongst the witches, wizards, and all the magical creatures. With first and second place winners earning themselves “Bottles of potions” (wine) as prizes, as voted by cheers from the crowd.
But past 9:30pm you could tell there was a shift in the room, people were full and tired. Less and less clapped, even less paid attention to the show on stage. But for those able to keep the party going, towards the back of the room, there was a dance floor installed. With strobe lights and top 40 beats, guests in full costume took to the floor. This was a fun way to end the night. And although the official event ended at 10pm, the space was free for use until 1am. There were plenty of opportunities and mentions to grab a drink at the bar that remained opened.
Overall, I had fun with the company I was in. However, I wouldn’t need a round two of the event, (they came back to the city); even if they decreased the ticket price. I understand the need to make profit and the cost of the film crew, wait staff, venue, owl handlers and all the acts in between. However it didn’t blow me away like other $250 shows with food and performers and an elaborate backdrops, that I have been to, did. Sad because I made the effort and dress up in full costume with a wig to boot.