Special Feature by Bob Kelley
Sipping ice cold butterbeer inside the boisterous Three Broomsticks, Ed St. Amour pondered his dilemma: Which was the better investment: Dumbledore’s wand or fashionable (especially at Halloween) Gryffindor class robes?
A pre-teen mulling over how to spend his weekly allowance? No, actually St. Amour is a 50-something human resources manager from Atlanta trying to decide on the better bargain for his hard earned dollars.
From the moment the first of J.K.Rowling’s series hit the bookstands, the adventurous story of the youthful wizard and his quest to vanquish He Who Must Not Be Named has transcended generations, appealing to Muggles of all ages. (For the unitiated, Muggles are non-magical folks like you and me.) Quicker than you can say wingardium leviosa, parents preferring to read the books before allowing their children to do so were soon hooked themselves.
Word of mouth spread the news to childless adults who love a good read. The books were entertaining and rekindled wonderful lifelong lessons in friendship, loyalty, bravery and, above all, the choices one makes and the consequences of those choices.
For young and adult fans, Pottermania reached its zenith with the opening in 2010 of Universal’s $265 million Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP). The 20-acre park within a theme park is credited with boosting Universal Orlando’s attendance 36 percent (more than one million visitors) in its first three months. Visitors who journey to the WWHP are rewarded with state-of- the-art attractions, a restaurant and shops that bring the wonder and magic of the heavily-detailed Potter books and movies to life. As a testament to its popularity, within six months of opening the attraction sold its one millionth mug of butterbeer, the drink of choice for Harry and his friends.