Harry Potter Soars Again
By Paula Gottlieb Herman
Wizard wands, potions, spell duels, and cupcake cauldrons magically delighted families at the 2nd Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop with LilChefs.com on Sunday, October 21st. Families from Manhattan, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk were greeted by me, Chef Paula, owner of LilChefs.com Special Events, dressed in a purple wizard robe and hat, instead of my trademark chef coat and chef hat. I was accompanied by an assortment of wizards representing Dumbledore’s Army Clubs from LIU Post and Five Towns College. The first 30 minutes of the each workshop included visiting the live Animals Exhibit at the Center for Science Teaching & Learning in Rockville Centre. Barred owls, snakes, lizards, turtles and more were on display to get the new Hogwarts in the right spell-binding mood along with a Harry Potter trivia contest.
The families then entered the Great Hall by uttering a secret password. Once inside, they could visit multiple stations including the Wand Making station where the li’l wizards could add magical ingredients to give their wand special powers such as Unicorn Hair, Dragon Heartstring, Phoenix Tail Feather, and Thestral Tail Hair. Or the Transfiguration Booth where they could try on articles of clothing and props such as wands, neckties, scarves, glasses, snitches, marauder’s map and pose for family photos in front of the mural painted by the LIU Post Dumbledore’s Army Club. The mural, created last year for the 1st Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop, displayed the castle up on a bluff, an elder’s wand, owl carrying a message, and Harry Potter logo. For extra authenticity, two face painters could also transfigure any wizard into an animal or other character with the stroke of their paint brushes. And for those more daring, a Potions Table was set up to tempt the wizards with canisters of delectable tasting items but with disgusting names such as Blood Worms (red string licorice), Blind Cat Eyes (mini marshmallows), Hollow Stump Soil (chocolate cookie crumbs), and Gillyweed (green Gatorade with shreds of coconut floating on top).
Harry Potter themed music played in the background as the families gathered for the Sorting Hat Ceremony. A stool with the Hogwarts crest was positioned by the mural and I placed the brown all-knowing sorting hat on each child’s head. The wizards-in-training were given their house assignment by the talking hat in a big, booming voice. Once sorted, the new Hogwarts took their places at the long table representing their house. Each of the four tables could be located by the handmade centerpiece created just for them by two LIU Post students. All of the centerpieces had a wooden painted letter attached to a base and a mason jar with color coded glass beads and feathery plumes poking out. I especially loved the Gryffindor’s centerpiece with the red “G” and red glass beads. Each table also displayed their house’s formal crest. Above each table, candles were magically floating, just like in the original Great Hall from the Harry Potter movies. Hand-painted banners with all the house crests proudly hung in the room, too.
Since food is always such a big part of any LilChefs.com event, this one was no exception. I set up a lavish buffet for the guests to enjoy a glass of creamy Butterbeer (skillfully mixed by a Five Towns College wizard with cream soda, butterscotch topping, and whipped cream), Herbology Bites (sliced baguette with vegetable cream cheese and English cucumber topper), Pumpkin Pasties (pumpkin and gingerbread mini cakes), Rock Cakes (chocolate brownie bites), vegetable crudités, cheese platter, cauldron of assorted crackers, and Elixir of Life (bottled water).
Once the wizards and their families were fed, I called up each house, one at a time, to start working with me to craft the Harry Potter snacks. First, Wizard Wands were conjured up with either a pretzel rod or licorice stick dipped in melted chocolate. Then the wands could be decorated with Halloween-colored sprinkles, coconut, or chocolate crumbs. Next, Crunchy Cockroaches were created with a dollop of chocolate encrusted with raisins and broken pretzel bits. Acid Pop Lollipops are always a crowd pleaser among the kids and the parents who wax nostalgically about their first experience with Pop Rocks. Packets of Blue Razz Pop Rocks were given out along with a 3 oz. cup of water, and a choice of Blow Pop Lollipops. The kids were instructed to unwrap the lollipop, to slightly dampen the pop with water (or they could lick it a few times), then dip the pop in Pop Rocks. The crackles and the smiles were both great to see and hear! The last craft was Cupcake Cauldrons. Devils food or yellow sponge cupcakes were displayed on 3-tier Halloween pedestals alongside chocolate and vanilla puddings, gummy frogs, gummy brains, gummy worms, and black licorice. The goal was to hollow out a small well in the middle of the cupcake, pour in some pudding, then lace the cauldron with some creepy crawly critters and to attach a black licorice handle. Who knew creepy things could taste so yummy?
The last half hour of the event was designed to showcase the college students from the Dumbledore’s Army Clubs. Since all the wizards-in-training had their wands, now they needed to know what those wands were capable of. Two adult wizards demonstrated various spells during a spell duel, and then individual li’l wizards were coached to come up and cast a spell to combat an adult wizard. Some of our littlest wizards packed quite a wallop as the adult wizard opponent had his legs become wobbly by the Jelly-Legs Jinx or rendered unconscious by hearing the Stupefy Stunning Spell.
The finale of the 2nd Annual Harry Potter Halloween Workshop With LilChefs.com was the musical performance of “Going Back To Hogwarts” from “A Very Potter Musical.” Harry, Ron, and Hermione were flanked by a wizardly chorus of singers. The routine was amazing, animated, and showed the true spirit and talent of these college students we had the privilege to work with for the last month. We attended their Wednesday club hours at LIU Post as they created paper wands for all of our wizards, painted banners, constructed centerpieces, rehearsed the musical number, and came up with trivia questions. We were blessed to have so many interested students collaborating with us for way more than the community service credits they received from LIU Post and Five Towns College, and an inspiring club advisor (LIU Post), who breathed even more life into the event we created.
After the entertaining finale, our way to end the event was to give out special awards for the best costumes. We handed out Hershey Bars dressed up in “Most Original Costume,” Best Costume,” and “Scariest Costume” wrappers. All wizards left with a specially designed goody bag that we made up with a “Harry Potter Halloween With LilChefs.com” label, broomstick pen engraved with LilChefs.com, Harry Potter geek glasses, rubber bracelet, Halloween pencil, recipe book with all of the Harry Potter snacks we made, and a personalized diploma.
It was our pleasure to host four children from Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and two children from Make A Wish Foundation of Long Island. These children, who are being treated for a variety of medical conditions at local hospitals, had a chance to just be kids or wizards, if only for a few hours. We were also happy to offer complimentary tickets to winners from the Treat of the Day Contest by NYMetroParents.com and our own internal LilChefs.com ticket contest.
The energy in the Great Hall was magnetic for these two sessions. Children, adults, wizards, and a chef all witnessed something magical. One of our littlest wizards who attended our morning workshop, age 4.5 came dressed in his Harry Potter outfit, and was completely wowed by the workshop. In an email I received the next day, his mom said, “The Harry Potter Workshop was amazing and such a wonderful experience! My son had the best time and has been talking about it since the event. It was so much fun and entertaining, and one of the best family events we have ever participated in! Thank you so much for preparing and hosting such an amazing event for children! I would also like to express a special thank you to the Dumbledore’s Army and CSTL group. Oh my gosh, they were so great and made the event even more special. I can’t rave enough about them and LilChef’s!
Thank you to all who made this event such a spooktacular one!! We are hard at work preparing for next year’s seasonal events. We hope to see you all in 2013!