Harry Potter fan

Harry Potter, aka Ozzie Williams, inspects a balloon creation by the Real Magic Steve of Edinboro, whose real name is Steve Bennett.

UNION CITY — Isaac Barringer thought long and hard about why he likes J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books.

The Union City pre-teen tapped into some out-of-this-world brain power to help formulate an answer, as a green balloon shaped like a space alien was twisted around the top of his head.

“I’ve read each book like three times,” Isaac said. “I like the story line, the fantasy and the adventure. I like them because they’re fun for people of all ages.”

Isaac was among about 25 teens and pre-teens (and older Potter fans, too) who gathered Tuesday for the first PotterPalooza Evening of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the Union City Public Library.

The creative balloons were courtesy of the Real Magic Steve, a magician and balloon artist from Edinboro whose real name is Steve Bennett.

The 2-hour event also included a spirited game of Quidditch on the library lawn; Potter-appropriate snacks such as butterbeer, chocolate frogs and homemade haggis chips; and crafts. Many of the participants came dressed as their favorite character from the popular series of books and movies.

Library Director Chris Slocum, decked out as the event’s headmistress, credits Stephen Mangol and Julie Barringer, two student summer library interns, with organizing PotterPalooza. “They are responsible for most of it,” she said.

The event was meant to attract teens to the downtown library at the corner of South Main and Stranahan streets, Slocum said.

“We do a lot of programming for younger kids, but we wanted to reach out to an underserved audience, so we chose teenagers,” Slocum said. “I’m finding out that a lot of teen readers are very well-versed and literate about Harry Potter.”

Besides the creative balloon making, the young wizards also created magic wands and “dismantled” a Harry Potter book. The participants had to read scraps of pages to determine which of the seven Harry Potter books had been sliced apart.

Corbin Fowler, Ph.D., an English professor at Edinboro University and a primary organizer of the university’s annual “Potterfest,” dressed as Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school of wizardry. While the “Harry Potter” series is an “extremely complicated fun adventure,” he believes Rowling is the most important author since Charles Dickens.

“Dickens dealt with the social problems of his day,” Fowler said. “’’Harry Potter’ deals with injustice to poor kids and orphans and anybody who doesn’t have money.”

The first Union City event was a good event, he said.

“So far, so good,” he said. “I’m happy to do it.”

April Barringer, 11, came dressed as character Hermione Granger.

“I like that there are both boy and girls characters,” April said. “It’s not like there is a gender difference.”

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