Harry Potter and the Train of Perpetual Youth
The group of friends was somewhere between embarrassment and exaltation as the SEPTA's train to Chestnut Hill West, on Sunday christened the Hogwarts Express, chugged out of the city.
The group of friends was somewhere between embarrassment and exhaltation as SEPTA's Sunday morning train to Chestnut Hill West, christened the Hogwarts Express, chugged out of the city. One was a lawyer. Another a geologist. The most exhuberantly dressed was a graphic designer at a toy company. All were over 30.
"We're the coolest 31-year-olds who ever lived," joked Gina Wick, 31, the one who worked at the toy company.
Despite some blushing and nervous laughter, the trio from New Jersey decided to give in to excitement.
"Harry Potter is amazing," Wick said.
A good number of grown up Muggles embraced the Harry Potter experience this weekend. Amid children with lightning bolts on their temples and plastic coke bottle glasses framing their eyes were adults who boarded the train with almost as much gusto as the kids. SEPTA ridership has been growing and the Harry Potter festival is a good chance to introduce young Philadelphians to the regional rail service.
"We're trying to appeal to millennials," said Manny Smith, a spokesman for the agency.
About 800 people took the train that left Jefferson Station about 10:30 a.m. Some cars were so full passengers had to stand. The Chestnut Hill event featured a Quidditch tournament, actors dressed as characters from the book and servings of butterbeer, a favored drink of characters in the J.K. Rowling novels.
Two students from D'youville College in Buffalo drove six hours in the rain to get to Philly in time to board the train. The two aspiring nurses sported Ravenclaw and Griffindor robes and had every intention of getting wands once they arrived at the festival.
"We get to dress like this and walk around Philly where I've never been," said Martha Przybylak, 20.
The festival's Harry himself is older than you'd expect. Dan Lemoine, who plays the hero, is 30. He's such a dead ringer for Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the movies, he stole the job out from under his predecessor.
"I was a guest a couple years ago and I kind of outplayed the Potter that was here," said Lemoine, of Mount Airy.
Riding the Hogwarts Express, surrounded by ecstatic children role playing the adventures of their favorite characters, it's hard not to get swept up in their cheer. One mother, Stephanie Egger, brought her daughters, Mischa Kardos, 8, and Laila Egger, 6, and even while standing in line at Jefferson Station for a long while waiting for their ride, they were giddy. Seeing Harry Potter characters in the flesh is a thrill.
"The kids just go nuts," Egger said.
For the cost of a train ride and a colorful scarf today's 20 and 30-somethings who met Harry Potter as children can be kids again and immerse themselves in that old magic.
"it's also nice to be openly dorky without being judged," said the New Jersey lawyer, Jessica Milavsky, of Haddon Township.
And there are advantages to being a grown up in Harry Potter's world. Milavsky and her friends also planned on getting some butterbeer, but they were taking theirs spiked with a bit of booze. They called it a shot of "the dark arts."