Eight years ago, Old Nick’s Pub owner Emily Nyman says she was undergoing cancer treatment — and the Harry Potter series was an escape for her.
“I wanted to create an event where people could come just for the day, they were in a magical world,” she says about first creating the Old Nick’s event. “And they could escape from whatever stressors of the holiday season.”
In its fourth year, the annual Witchcraft and Wizardry Yule Ball at Old Nick’s on Saturday, Dec. 18, is a way for people to escape not just the stress of the holidays but also the pandemic.
For those unfamiliar with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the fourth book in the series), the Yule Ball is a formal dance held before the Triwizard Tournament magical contest.
The Old Nick’s Pub event is a way to reclaim the magic from the transphobic she-who-must-not-be-named author, Nyman says. Normally, it’s he-who-must-not-be-named, a name for the fascist wizard Voldemort who’s trying to “purify” the wizarding world. But author J.K. Rowling earned the name after going on a transphobic rant on Twitter in 2020.
That made Nyman question whether to continue the event, but she says after speaking with some of her trans employees and deciding to donate some of the proceeds to Trans Lifeline, the annual event will continue. “J.K. Rowling may not support trans folks,” she says, “but our fan event does, in a monetary way.”
Before 8 pm, the event is all ages and family-friendly, Nyman says. In addition to vendors selling magical items at the pub’s outdoor “Diagon Alley,” there will also be live sword fighting, a Hogwarts house sorting event and puppet show. Nyman also contacted local cosplayers, so expect Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and professors in attendance. When the clock strikes 8 pm, it’s a 21-plus event. Nyman says the fire dancing will be more risqué and risky.
Because of COVID-19, a portion of the event is outdoors, but Nyman says, “The great thing about a Harry Potter event is that everyone is wearing robes and big capes.”
She does caution that muggles (non-magic people) will pay a higher entrance fee, so she encourages people to dress like it’s the Yule Ball in Hogwarts — whether it’s formal wizard wear or your favorite character from the series. If you need more incentive, there’s a cash prize costume for adults and a prize-filled children’s costume contest.
The Fourth Annual Witchcraft and Wizardry Yule Ball runs noon Saturday, Dec. 18 through 2 am Sunday, Dec. 19. All ages before 8 pm, $17 presale, $22 door, children under 5 free. 21-plus after 8 pm, $20 presale, $25 door. For up-to-date event information, visit OldNicksPub.com/Events.