Harry Potter festival vanishes from Kensington
Muggles in Calgary will have to find another way to marvel in magic culture.
The annual Harry Potter-themed festival in Kensington has been banished to Azkaban after a licensing dispute forced local businesses to end the summer favourite.
The event began in 2016 with more than 65,000 people flocking to the northwest community.
Annie MacInnis, executive director of the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone, says it started as a launch partyfor the final book of the Harry Potter series, but quickly turned into something much larger.
“My favourite tweet was ‘the day that Calgary broke Kensington’, because you couldn’t get here, you couldn’t get out. Businesses had to close because they had no food left to cook in the kitchens. We were completely unprepared for how big a deal it was,” she said.
It was such a big deal, that the community decided to put on an even bigger event the following year.
In 2017, the entire neighbourhood was transformed into Diagon Alley, the famed marketplace from the Harry Potter series.
Sunnyside’s LRT station was also decorated as platform 9 3/4 and local businesses served up their own version of chocolate frogs and butterbeer.
But just six weeks before the 2018 edition of the festival, Kensington BRZ received a letter from Universal Studios.
Universal owns the licensing rights to the Harry Potter theme parks. The letter outlined restrictions and stated the group was nolonger allowed to run a Harry Potter-themed event.
“That was true for Harry Potter festivals elsewhere as well, so we had to make a decision at that time,” said MacInnis.
On short notice, the festival still went ahead as Fantasy Faire, encouraging fans of all wizards and mythical movies and books to dress up in their favourite costumes.
About 25,000 people showed up to last year’s event but MacInnis said it didn’t have the same hype.
And now, local businesses in the area have bigger problems to deal with.
“Economics the way they are and taxes the way they are, it’s important we consider the return on investment for a free street festival,” she said.
“We’re looking at other ways to bring benefit to businesses, especially for members who are rate payers of this organization.”
The Kensington BRZ says it will seek out new niches to spark more events and economic growth in the future.
For now, MacInnis has her mind set on property taxes, with some of her community’s small business owners facing property tax bills that have quadrupled since last year.
“I never want to see any of my businesses close and I hope they all survive,” she said.
“So I hope council makes some great decisions about how to help my mostly small, independent businesses get through this hard time.”