It might be the wand that chooses the wizard, but it’s the Harry Potter enthusiast that chooses where she wants to share her fandom. Henderson’s Green Valley Ranch Resort was the gathering place July 7-10 for more than 700 enthusiasts of J.K. Rowling’s acclaimed literary series, its stage and film adaptations and the world of fan creations that it has inspired.
Leviosa Con, which took over GVR’s Grand Events Center, may not seem all that unique on its face: There’s nothing particularly unusual about groups meeting in Las Vegas, considering that more than 21,000 did last year. But precious few admonish their attendees not to brandish their wands at Muggles (those outside the worlds of wizardry and witching) or warn them, in bold type, that “DUELING IS NOT ALLOWED IN THE CASINO OR HOTEL,” though it is permissible in the safe zone of the events center.
And that’s what Las Vegas is all about: giving groups places where they feel free, as Leviosa’s program suggests, to “shop, relax and nerd out.” The Common Room is a place for attendees, many of whom have “known” each other online for years but might not have met in person, to unwind and catch up. It also showed the range of Leviosa, which was naturally focused on Pottermania, but included other franchises that are popular with anglophiles, particularly Sherlock, Doctor Who and Supernatural. With an art gallery and free Wi-Fi, it was a welcoming place for fans to get creative or just relax.
The shopping took place in the Vendor Hall, with a variety of merchants ranging from a spell tutor to our own Henderson Libraries. If you liked, you could do an extreme magic makeover there: Naturally, you could buy robes and wands, but also “Alohomora” panties and Hogwarts house scarves and sweaters. For the finishing touch, makeup artist Jasmine Ringo was creating Potter-styled scar tattoos and dark marks. Her transformation of one fan into a creepily close Voldemort took four hours and was a hit of the convention. If you wanted your look captured for posterity a little better than with a selfie, illustrator Joenell Luma could have drawn your comic-style caricature.
The heart of the meeting, though, was the content. There were six programming tracks focused on discrete areas: academic (“Teaching Harry Potter in the College Classroom”); fandom (“Sorting Hamilton”); slash and queer lit (“Roundtable: Remus/Sirius”); creativity (“Weasleys’ Wiz-Bang Bath Bombs”); YA (Young Adult) literature (“Imaginary Boyfriends”); and writing (“How to Pitch to a Literary Agent”). Those session titles illustrate the progression of the conference: from reading and watching to creating new scenarios with Rowling’s characters and settings to writing original fiction. The line between fan and creator is tenuous at best.
Leviosa demonstrates how welcoming Las Vegas (or Henderson) casinos can be. It’s one thing to hold a meeting in a convention room; it’s another to have the casino’s outdoor amphitheater converted into a Quiddtich pitch for the weekend. Some people might roll their eyes at Hagrid and Snape making their way through the casino, but in Las Vegas (or Henderson), it’s par for the course, and probably not the most unusual sight of the weekend. Even if you don’t know your legilimens from your lumos, you probably know someone who does, and even if you don’t, it’s nice to see other people enjoying their passions together.