MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later, One Year Later
If you’re reading this piece, you probably already know why September 1 is such a special date in this fandom. (In fact, here at MuggleNet, September 1 might be one of our favorite days of the year.) This year, we’re taking a look back at last September 1 and our phenomenal event, MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later, which we held to celebrate the series’ epilogue, at Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida!
Here, three MuggleNet staff members discuss their experiences of the night (and try to figure out how it has been a year since then)!
What I remember most about MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later is the absolute joy of the weekend. A year before, when I first heard about the idea to have an event in Diagon Alley on September 1, 2017 - the day the epilogue takes place - I was ecstatic, as in started-saving-right-then-for-plane-tickets ecstatic. After months of hard work, we were here at last.
I was assigned to one of the special guests that evening: Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood), Rohan Gotobed (young Sirius Black), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), Christian Coulson (Tom Riddle, CoS), Ellie Darcey-Alden (young Lily Evans), Ryan Turner (Hugo Weasley), and Luke Youngblood (Lee Jordan), whom I had the pleasure of spending the evening with. During the panels, we spent an enjoyable time in the green room while the cast gave interviews and chatted with us - even signing autographs! They were all so kind and easy to talk to. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of reminiscing about the films, and a lot of excitement for the night ahead!
After the panels, we headed out from Hard Rock Live to the park, dodging a light rain. We ate dinner quickly (delicious Three Broomsticks fare, nothing less!), knowing the event attendees would be here soon, and the fun would begin! Our first stop of the evening was Platform 9 ¾ and the Hogwarts Express. Most of the cast had not been to the park before, and walking through King’s Cross with them was a delight. There was a lot of awe over how the park felt just like the actual King’s Cross in London (“but cleaner, definitely much cleaner”) and how much it felt for the cast like being back on set. We sent the talent through the secret archway (they had a great time, filming their entrances with style!) and then we saw the Express waiting for us. Seeing the wonder on the cast's faces was a highlight of the evening. We took some pictures with attendees and talent, and then it was time to get on the train!
Luke hadn’t been on the Express yet, and his reactions were delightful. From marveling over seeing London streets from the train and how they looked just like his home to his excitement at the appearance of the Weasley twins (“That’s James and Ollie! Those are my friends!”), the entire trip was filled with joy and laughter.
Alighting from the train back at Platform 9 ¾, we headed with our special attendee guests toward Diagon Alley, stopping on the Muggle street to learn about the hidden Easter eggs within. It took us a while to get anywhere since every few steps, fans were taking advantage of having a free-roaming cast, taking selfies and getting autographs and a few minutes of chat with their favorite Potter stars. As we explored Diagon Alley, we managed to snag some butterbeer ice cream before we were on our way through the marble pillars of the wizarding bank to experience Escape from Gringotts!
The best part? We were the only people on the entire ride. Just the four of us and an empty Gringotts cart ahead. We sat in the back and I, not a huge fan of crazy roller coasters, shut my eyes as we dropped down into the vault of Gringotts and escaped with the help of Bill Weasley and the trio. Then it was back to the street to meet more fans, grab a butterbeer, and head to the wand choosing ceremony.
The night went by in a blur as we wandered the streets lit by lanterns in the shop windows, waved at friends, talked with attendees, compared excited “isn’t this great?”s, and saw just how much everyone was enjoying themselves.
What really topped the night off for me was the end. Luke wanted to experience the wand ceremony, so we headed back to Ollivanders. The only people in the room were a Universal employee, the wand keeper, Luke, and me. Luke asked me to record the experience on his phone. The wand keeper asked his name, and Luke answered “Lee Jordan.” I nearly dropped his phone (sorry, Luke) with surprise and delight. The wand keeper played along beautifully, and Luke (as Lee) was chosen by a wand that was perfect for the character. It’s probably my favorite memory of the entire trip.
And then, when it felt like it had only just started, the night was over. We reconvened, took a few last pictures with MuggleNet staff, and made our way back to our hotels. It was one of the most magical nights I’ve ever experienced, surrounded by friends in a beautiful place, celebrating the stories and the world that we all love. I was just a little too young to do many of the fandom activities at the height of the book and film releases, but this one day, I could live in the wizarding world with everyone else. Despite our exhaustion the next day, the most popular topic of conversation was clear: When could we do this again?
Speaking for myself, any opportunity that I can get to see tons of my MuggleNet
coworkers family members at one time is always a plus. We’re spread – literally – all around the world, so it’s pretty rare for so many of us to be able to converge upon one location for a night. With MuggleNet Live! 2017, there was also the added bonus of having talent from the films there, so that made the night just a little bit better than your average family reunion. Now imagine putting it all in one of the most fantastic locations possible (including Diagon Alley), adding a dash of some dedicated MuggleNet fans, and getting to see everyone’s hard work pay off after months upon months of planning? The only word to describe that is to say that MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later was magical.
The day began early for those of us working the event. We all met that morning to discuss everyone’s roles on our respective teams for the night, which differed from our teams on the site. This was pretty fun since I got to work with a mix of different people, including those whom I don’t usually interact with for my work on the site. I was part of the general team of volunteers, meaning that I was a runner for whatever was necessary on the night of and on hand to ensure that everything would run as smoothly as possible. From the time at which we all had to meet and go to Hard Rock Live, there was a lot to take care of, so there wasn’t much free time before the panels started.
From the time that we opened the doors to the attendees, though, it was clear that we had done something pretty awesome. Everyone was really excited to be there, which helped energize those of us on staff who had been preparing everything. It took a little while to get everyone through the doors and checked in, but then it was time for the first part of the event: the panels!
Getting to listen to so many actors from the Harry Potter films talk about their past experiences and future projects was great. The audience had some really interesting questions too. I especially enjoyed listening to the younger actors talk about their experiences and plans for the future, which is interesting to look back on a year later.
The highlight of the night, in spite of how wet it was initially, was getting everyone over to Universal Studios Florida itself. Although we were all wearing ponchos and had to contend with the looming threat of rain, I don’t think that anyone could have asked for a more wonderful night. I have attended other after-hours events as well as seen the parks during the day, and we truly couldn’t have had a better crowd of Potterheads if we’d tried. Just the ambience of being in Diagon Alley is something special, and being there with people who wanted to celebrate September 1, 2017, with MuggleNet was indescribable. (I honestly tried to make a Harry Potter reference there but couldn’t come up with one.)
Aside from thanking everyone on MuggleNet staff, our various partners, and the talent who were able to make that night possible, I also need to give a huge thank you to the Universal Orlando staff who helped make sure that everything was as magical as possible. This is also my way of saying thank you for being on hand to serve all sorts of wonderful food, including butterbeer.
On September 1, 2017, I got to experience the best of MuggleNet. I’d worked for the site for ten years and rarely get to attend live events, but just like Hogwarts, MuggleNet events welcome me home, and MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later was the perfect way to celebrate my decade on the site. It was a trip of firsts. I had never been to Orlando (let alone the theme parks), and the setting was simply amazing for this magical moment. All of my friends were gathered together to celebrate this wonderful fandom and create an evening to remember in Diagon Alley.
My role began at the check-in desks, welcoming our guests, sorting their wristbands, and seeing the wonderful cosplays that came walking through the door. It was so great to see families and friends so excited for the night we had planned and extra lovely to meet Alohomora! podcast listeners among the mix. Then everyone was seated and it was time for the panels.
I had been lucky enough to meet Rohan Gotobed and Ellie Darcey-Alden before, and I had the pleasure of adding Ryan Turner to the mix since I hosted our young actors panel, where they discussed their experiences filming and life since Potter. I am always so stunned by the warmth and kindness of the actors in the Harry Potter films, who are so willing to share their tales with us fans, and the Q&A panel showed how wonderful these three truly are. Thank you to all of the fans who asked questions; I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did on-stage!
While the adult actors and MuggleCast held their panels, we were waiting in the green room running media interviews before it was time to enter the park for our exclusive after-hours event.
Since my main job was done, I got to experience the rest of the night as a fan, wandering through Diagon Alley, talking to our attendees, and exploring the detail of the amazing park without the normal crowds in front of every window. As a Brit in a foreign land, it was eerie to walk around these theme park streets that felt so familiar as London yet were so obviously part of this Wizarding World. It was lovely to see the actors interacting with their fans in this more relaxed setting, joking and taking photos without the barriers of tables and stale convention walls.
The night was a truly magical feeling. It was as if the world had come to life for me to walk through, talking to my favorite people; sharing Harry Potter trivia; enjoying the rides, shops, and shows; and finding out more about the series of books and films I have loved for so long. Thank you, MuggleNet, for the opportunity!
Did you attend MuggleNet Live! 2017: Nineteen Years Later? What are your memories of that night? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!