Witch’s Wardrobe to benefit CPA

October 19, 2017

JEFFERSON — In Harry Potter’s world, Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions offers all styles of wizarding wear, with alterations done while you wait.

This weekend, Harry Potter Fest USA attendees can make use of their own personal theatrical costumers at “Witch Mart,” while supporting the arts in Jefferson County.

And should the robes be too long, just as in Madame Malkin’s, shoppers can even have minor alterations done onsite.

Accessible only with a festival wristband, Witch Mart is located next to the Hidden Tunnel in the lower level of the Fort Community Credit Union at the corner of Racine and Main streets in Jefferson. The stone-walled, lower-level space — located next to an actual historic tunnel used in a prior century for transporting locally brewed beer under the street to a bottling facility — has served as the office for Jefferson County’s Council for the Performing Arts for several years, but its unique location and atmosphere made it perfect as a haberdashery for would-be wizards and witches.

“We were really excited when we heard the Harry Potter Festival USA was coming to Jefferson,” said Trudianne Thom, CPA director. “Ironically, I thought about doing something when Edgerton hosted the fest last year.”

When festival coordinators first brought together local businesses and organizations, the CPA took on the responsibility of running a brat stand at Tensfeldt Park, where the Quidditch matches will take place.

The CPA has plenty of experience doing so, as the brat stand is one of the organization’s perennial fundraisers. However, CPA volunteers thought there were other ways they could contribute to the festival that would be even more within their wheelhouse.

With an organization full of theater fans and amateur costume designers, CPA coordinators immediately conjured up possibilities to use those talents to boost the fest, while helping to support their mission of bringing live arts opportunities to Jefferson County.

The first thing Thom thought of went back to her first stint with the CPA back in the 1980s, during which she served as director for “The Wizard of Oz.” For that production, the CPA had a witch cloak that fit all sizes, with an incredibly simple design that still looked classy on stage. For extra character, Thom remembered gluing garbage bags to the bottom of that cloak so that it made a spooky rustling sound every time the character moved.

“I thought we could do the same thing for the Harry Potter fest,” Thom said of the robe design.

But the ideas kept building from there, with so many creative people donating their time, efforts and considerable skills to creating a great variety of wizarding costumes from simple to elaborate.

“The best thing about this whole process has been the journey, not just the end product,” Thom said, lauding all who helped turn the initial brainstorm into a reality.

Thom herself took charge of making colored robes following the original design used in “The Wizard of Oz “all those years ago.

Gail Ladish and Kris Davis, longtime CPA supporters and skilled seamstresses, got to work making choir robe-like house robes for each of the Hogwarts houses: Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.

A woman who used to have a fabric shop in the area came forward to donate all of the upholstery fabric the CPA wanted. While this turned out to be too stiff for robes, some of it was able to be put to use in the hidden tunnel adjacent to Witch Mart.

Two women from the Fort Community Credit Union, Rachel Schehr and Chris Busse, offered to help with sewing costumes, along with well-known community seamstress Gretchen Bayorgeon. Schehr and Busse served as the main costume designers for the CPA’s recent local show, “The Story of Hansel and Gretel.”

Robes for sale range from the simple to the elaborate, from basic black to vividly colorful, with even a couple of offerings in baby and child sizes.

The simpler designs sell for $30, the more elaborate ones for $50 — comparable to commercial costume shop prices, but handmade and benefiting the local nonprofit organization rather than some company in China.

To go along with these, Sue Polk created an entire variety of hats, decorated to suit all different tastes.

“These have already gotten a lot of attention on Facebook,” Thom said. “After one day of being posted on Facebook, they’d been seen by 510 people.”

Sue’s daughter, Lara Polk, helped out too, making buttons with sayings that would be instantly recognizable to Harry Potter fans, like “This badge is a portkey.”

For the budget-minded shopper, these will be some of the most affordable items, selling for only $1. The CPA already had the button-maker and materials, so 100 percent of proceeds will go directly to the nonprofit organization.

Also available will be Nestle Crunch bars donated by the local NestlePurina plant, decorated with pictures of the familiar characters from the books. They’ll be available under the brand name “Dementors’ Revenge,” a nod to the fact that in the books, chocolate helps people recover from Dementor attacks.

Finally, there’s a number of wooden owls cut by Carol Brandel’s brother and painted by Bayorgeon, Shelly Brown and Lorna Lovett.

Davis and Ladish made and donated a set of homemade windsocks, all featuring the different Hogwarts houses, which also will be on sale at Witch Mart.

Carol Brandel made a series of neckties with Harry Potter fabric, donating the handmade items to the CPA so it will be able to take advantage of 100-percent of the sale proceeds.

Peg Beyer created a number of unique wands, also hand-making the wood-grain painted boxes the wands come nestled in, which closely resemble the wand boxes from Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies.

The shop also will offer felt finger puppets featuring beloved characters from the books/movies.

Meanwhile, the CPA office has been redecorated to suit its new identity as a wizarding world shop, with old scenery pieces repainted and brought in to separate the “shop” from the regular office functions of the CPA.

And while festival-goers are stopping at Witch Mart to shop for customized robes, hats and gifts, officials hope they also will consider purchasing tickets for the CPA’s Saturday evening show, a Harry Potter-themed performance by “Artrageous,” which will incorporate live music, art, dance, and audience participation.

While related to the Harry Potter theme, “Artrageous” is not covered by the festival wristbands; attendees will need to purchase their tickets separately.

Thom noted that people can attend the “Artrageous” show Saturday evening and still be out in time for the Highway 18 Outdoor Drive-in’s 9:15 p.m. showing of a Harry Potter movie that same night.

The CPA director said she’s hoping for high attendance at the Saturday evening event, noting that the CPA tries to keep ticket prices as low as possible while allowing the nonprofit to keep bringing quality arts entertainment into the local community.

“This is like a little gem we have here in Jefferson,” Thom said. “I’m not sure people know how rare this is for a community this size to be able to bring in this type of entertainment.”