Chestertown HP Festival canceled, citing copyright infringement

By Noah Vargas

Elm Staff Writer

Chestertown has maintained multiple traditions over its long and documented history. Whether it’s gathering downtown on the first Friday of every month or the annual Chestertown Tea Party Festival, the residents of the town hold celebrations to look forward to just around the corner.

One of the biggest of these is the annual Chestertown HP Festival, where fans of the “Harry Potter” movie franchise come from all over to celebrate the boy who lived amongst family and friends. Employees of the businesses in town would dress up as characters from the movies, offering themed treats and customer deals. It was a tradition that many people looked forward to every year. 

With the pandemic putting a pause on public gatherings, the festival was canceled for the past two years. However, the festival was set to return for its fifth year this October, according to the Chestertown Harry Potter Festival website.

The festival was canceled because Warner Brothers Entertainment, which owns the “Harry Potter”franchise, threatened legal action for copyright infringement if Chestertown were to throw another HP Festival, according to the festival’s website.

With this legal action threat, the event is canceled indefinitely, the return of it being uncertain. It is set back for many locals, including some Washington College students. 

One of these is senior Julia Totis. “The sense of community helped make it a great transition into college,” Totis said. “It kind of showed how small Chestertown is, but with the vibes of everyone coming together and just having fun for a whole weekend.”

The festival was a place where the town and campus communities can celebrate together and foster a friendly relationship.

“I remember the old bank was turned into Gringotts, and they had galleons and sickles and knuts,” Totis said. “It was just a really great time, especially coming into my freshman year.” 

These thoughts by Totis are echoed by many of the class of 2023, who were the last class to experience this event.

Senior Emma Russell also attended the festival during her freshman year.

“There were a lot of vendors there, so you could find unique handmade items…I found one of my friend’s birthday presents at the festival,” Russell said. “I still have a picture of a girl there who was dressed up as Hermione as a cat.”

According to the Garfield Center for the Arts, the organizer of the event, “although we had hoped to host a fun, family-friendly event for lovers of Harry Potter, Warner Brothers has demanded that we stop our event,” the company said. “We believed that we were operating the event in such a way that would not infringe upon their trademark and copyrights, however Warner Brothers disagrees and refuses to provide additional guidance to enable us to host the event without threat of legal action.”

Whether or not the Chestertown HP Festival might return in some form eventually is uncertain, but according to students, the impact that this weekend had on the town and its connection with the campus will not soon be forgotten.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo Caption: Colby Tuma dressed up as titular character Harry Potter at the 2014 HP Festival.

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