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Potter fans turn out for Naperville Quidditch match

 Potter fans turn out for Naperville Quidditch match
Teams assemble on the field at Wil-O-Way Park on Jefferson Avenue in Naperville Monday to play in the Quidditch Teen Tournament hosted by the Naperville Public Library. (David Sharos / Naperville Sun)

The Naperville Public Library celebrated Harry Potter's birthday Monday with a Quidditch Teen Tournament in Naperville's Wil-O-Way Park on West Jefferson Avenue.

The game made famous in the J.K. Rowling books involves seven players on each team in positions of chasers, beaters, keepers and seekers. Unlike the books, however, participants must make do without flying broomsticks.

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"We thought we'd have this the day after Harry's birthday as kids are still out of school and might not have anything to do on a Monday afternoon," said Kiersten Doucette, Naperville Library teen services librarian. "We had about 22 kids pre-register and even if people aren't familiar with the rules, we are encouraging everyone to play."

The rules of the game were streamline from those that "have been published by an official committee and number over 200 pages," Doucette said.

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"There are universities and even high schools all over the country that are playing Quidditch, and we've boiled the rules down to a few pages," she said. "Of course characters fly in the book and we've made other adaptations, but even if people haven't played, this isn't going to be physical or aggressive."

Players ranging from 6th through 12th grade, many in Harry Potter costumes and sporting lightning bolts on their foreheads, turned up to play.

Kassidy Wiskari, 12, left, and her friend Lauren Branham, 12, both of Naperville, get ready to play Quidditch at Wil-O-Way Park in Naperville Monday.
Kassidy Wiskari, 12, left, and her friend Lauren Branham, 12, both of Naperville, get ready to play Quidditch at Wil-O-Way Park in Naperville Monday. (David Sharos / Naperville Sun)

Kassidy Wiskari, 12, of Naperville, who attends Kennedy Junor High School, said she thought Monday's activity would be fun "as it's the only sport I know how to play."

"I know the rules and have seen the game played in the movies, although this will be my first time playing on a field," Wiskari said.

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Lauren Branham, 12, who also attends Kennedy, said she was hoping to play the position of seeker, whose job is to chase down the runner and catch the "snitch" Aaron Johnson, 15, who is home schooled, volunteered for the latter job, saying "they needed someone to do it." The snitch is the gold, walnut-shaped ball that's the center of the game.

"I know how to play the game, and I'm looking forward to running around," Johnson said about his role. "To me, the skill sets you need are hand-eye coordination, agility and peripheral vision."

Johnson came with his friend Quintin Peterson, 16, who is also home schooled. Peterson said he "likes the game, though I'm not a huge fan of team sports."

"I do like fantasy books and, to me, this is something kind of goofy that I don't have to take seriously," he said. "I'd personally like to play either the chaser or the seeker."

Peterson spoke, as others did, about an author creating not just a worldwide literary phenomenon – her latest work, a "script" book called "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," was released Sunday – but also a game that has been embraced across the country.

"We're a nation of Potter-heads," he said with a shrug. "It's fun and an escape, and for people like me, who'd like to live at Hogwarts, it's fun for us."

The Naperville Public Library set up games of Quidditch Monday in celebration of fictional character Harry Potter's birthday. In the J.K. Rowling books, Harry and his friends fly brooms and attempt to catch a "snitch."
The Naperville Public Library set up games of Quidditch Monday in celebration of fictional character Harry Potter's birthday. In the J.K. Rowling books, Harry and his friends fly brooms and attempt to catch a "snitch." (David Sharos / Naperville Sun)

Rachael Ziegler, 13, who attends Lincoln Junior High School, agreed that Rowling's creation of a game in her novels "broadened the appeal of the books."

"I've been into Harry for a long time, and it's kind of an obsession for me," Ziegler said. "I don't care what I play today – I like all the positions. I think for an author to create a game like this allows people to share an interest beyond reading the books themselves."

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The contests, which lasted 15 minutes each, even managed to draw spectators who had no vested interest in the game other than being Potter fans.

"I have four kids between the ages of four and ten, and they all like Harry Potter," said Jennifer Reckamp, of Naperville, who sat on a blanket with her children as they sipped drinks.

"I started reading the books out loud about a year and a half ago and the kids have really picked up on it. I wasn't sure I'd like the stories, but I've enjoyed them so much. I think having kids play the same game as they do in the book is a fun idea."

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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