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Potter fans of all ages have a wand-erful time at Universal Orlando's "Celebration of Harry Potter"

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Potter fans of all ages have a wand-erful time at Universal Orlando's "Celebration of Harry Potter"

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I want you to take a close look at the photo below. These are three young men in their late teens / early twenties. Do you notice anything different about them?


Photo by Jim Hill

Each of them is carrying a wand box. When I snapped this photo of these guys on Sunday, February 1st, they were hurrying through Universal Orlando's entrance complex because these three didn't want to miss the last day of 2015's "Celebration of Harry Potter."

That's what honestly surprised me about this three day-long celebration of all things Potter. I mean, sure, there were the tweens who -- before they entered the Expo at Soundstage 33 -- just had to grab a selfie.


Photo by Jim Hill

But for every youngster who was wowed by the fact that they could get this close to Dumbledore's desk ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... there was an adult who was equally thrilled to be sorted into a house at Hogwarts by the Sorting Hat.


Photo by Jim Hill

Perhaps the best example of this was during Paul Harris' Wand Masterclass and Kids' Duelling Demonstration.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take a look at the crowd as they follow Harris' instructions. There were hundreds of Potter fans of all ages up on their feet out on the lawn of Universal Studios Florida's Music Plaza Stage. All of them intently mimicking Paul's movements as he walked these folks through how to properly wield a wand when battling another wizard.


Photo by Jim Hill

There were equally enthusiastic crowds on hand as Alan Gilmore, Mike Aiello and Patrick Brallard talked about they created the Celestina Warbeck & Tales of Beedle the Bard shows for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.


Photo by Jim Hill

All three days of this event, hundreds of people happily stood in line outside of Soundstage 33 as Rip Ride Rockit zoomed overhead ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... eager to check out the props ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... and costumes that were used in the making of the Harry Potter films ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... or to get their pictures taken while they rode a Hippogriff or battled a Dementor.


Photo by Jim Hill 

Mind you, while I was covering this year's "Celebration of Harry Potter," I did wander around the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort. And while I was checking out the new pedestrian bridge that now connects Cabana Bay to the rest of the walkways that run through Universal Orlando's garden district ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... I couldn't resist peeking over the fence and checking out the site prep that's now being done on Universal Orlando's fifth resort, Loews Sapphire Falls. This Caribbean-inspired hotel isn't supposed to open 'til the Summer of 2016.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of peeking over fences at things that aren't quite ready to open ... While I was over at Universal's Islands of Adventures checking out the rehab work that's currently being done on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... I couldn't help but notice that -- right next door to Dudley -- there is a lot of steelwork being done.


Photo by Jim Hill

And when you eyeball this exact same structure from the fourth floor at Cabana Bay, it's admittedly pretty massive.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there are a lot of rumors making the rounds right now about this particular project. And I could share what I've heard, but then I don't want to end up like poor Olive Oyl.


Photo by Jim Hill

So let's get back to this year's "Celebration of Harry Potter." Where the crowd cheered as James and Oliver Phelps (who played Fred and George Weasley in the Potter films) strode down the red carpet.


Photo by Jim Hill

But the biggest cheers came on Friday night, January 30th, as Sir Michael Gambon (who played Professor Dumbledore in six of the Harry Potter movies) made his entrance by rolling onstage in the Weasley family's Ford Anglia.


Photo by Jim Hill

Gambon had perhaps the best story of the event. During a press conference at the Leaky Cauldron, Michael talked about his very first visit to the Universal Orlando Resort. Which was back in June of 2010 during the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade.


Photo by Jim Hill

At that time, Daniel Radcliffe persuaded Gambon to come join him on a ride on Dragon Challenge. Which Michael recalled as being a terrible ride which absolutely terrified him. So Gambon covered his eyes for the bulk of the time that he was on this Islands of Adventure coaster, only peeking out once to see Radcliffe seated next to him, grinning like a demon.


Photo by Jim Hill

Anyway ... That's a brief look back at this year's "Celebration of Harry Potter." And if you want to know where to find me when the 2016 edition of this hopefully-annual event rolls around again ... Well, look for me in line outside of the Sorting Hat Tent. Because -- though I resisted the first two years that Universal Orlando held this three day-long event -- I have to know what house at Hogwarts I should be sorted into.

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