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Harry Potter crawl ticketholders: It was a trick

It was billed as the ultimate Harry Potter-themed bar crawl, but it left many wizards feeling less than magical.

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Kathy Hanrahan
RALEIGH, N.C. — It was billed as the ultimate Harry Potter-themed bar crawl, but it left many wizards feeling less than magical.
The sold-out Wizard and Wand crawl promised Butterbeer, drink specials and other Potter-themed swag in downtown Raleigh at 16 downtown locations. It attracted more than 3,000 people and raised $4,000 for the Partnership to End Homelessness, according to organizers.

Following the event, commenters took to social media to blast event organizers on a variety of issues including overcrowding and long lines.

Hayley Stauss, 23, of Wilmington, and her husband, Kevin, purchased tickets late last year for the event. They waited an hour to get checked-in for the event, and when they got to the front of the line, she said, "They did not scan our tickets. No IDs were checked."

The couple are huge Harry Potter fans and were excited for the event, but said all bars were over capacity and not event checking IDs. "Our IDs weren't checked until the fourth bar we went to," Stauss said. She added that event organizers definitely underestimated the Harry Potter fandom and what sizable crowds it can bring.

Multiple event-goers noted they did not receive a scarf they were promised, instead getting what some called a "chopstick dipped in candle wax." Some scoffed at the 2 or 3 oz Butterbeer samples while others noted the Cauldron Cups, included in the ticket-price, were just plastic cups with advertiser branding. ​

Wizard and Wands was presented by Great Crawl Events, a Raleigh-based company which produces bar crawls across the country. Another Harry Potter themed crawl is planned in March in Charlotte.

"We put together an awesome event. It was massive," said Zack Medford, who co-owns Great Crawl Events with friend Andrew Payne. "There are isolated complaints and we're working to address those."

Medford said the company came up with the idea for the event in November. He is co-owner of Isaac Hunter's Tavern, Coglin's and Paddy O'Beers, which were among the venues participating in Saturday's event.

Medford noted the long lines, but said there were efforts to entertain the crowds with magicians.

"Next year, we are already planning on a bunch of different ways to mitigate those lines," he said, including a plan to work with the Raleigh Convention Center.

As for the promised scarf, Medford said the first two weeks tickets were on sale, the event website stated that attendees would get scarves.

"The vendor we were getting them from couldn't get it shipped to us in time," he said, noting the event website was changed to note the lack of scarf.

Medford said the event website was also updated to include other bonuses like DJs, magicians and shuttles to the venues via The Great Raleigh Trolley.

As for the chopsticks dipped in wax?

"For the past two weeks, me and my wife made these hand-dipped wands while watching Harry Potter movies," Medford said. The event, he said, was "more about the experience. Not about swag."

Fans were also frustrated with what they say was a lack of wristband checking, which allowed people who had not paid to attend the event to attend for free.

"Of course there are some freeloaders who tried to sneak in," Medford said, adding that he saw tons of wrist-banded attendees in venues. "We've done dozens of events throughout the country (D.C., Pittsburgh, New Orleans), we could be really tight on who gets in and who can't (but) we ask the bars to get them in and having fun right away."

Attendees were deterred by some of the responses received when they complained on the event's Facebook page Sunday. "We are extremely confident in our event planning skills," read one response from the official page. The comments have since been deleted, with only event reviews remaining.

"About 40 people had access to (respond to comments on) the page and saw complaints and they responded to them out of frustration and exhaustion," Medford said, saying he has full control over the page and will be reaching out to each commenter. "I want to talk to them and know about their experience. I want to make this right with them."

Stauss felt the company's lack of response on social media about the issues just made the experience worse. "It was really just PR and their way of communicating with the public that fell short," she said.

Medford said no refunds will be given, noting refunds were available up until 24 hours before the event.

Despite the complaints, Medford said he is looking forward to hosting another event next year.

"Of course there are things we are going to do better next year. I want to guarantee that things are going to be better." ​


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