By Rae Doyle
The Grinch may have stolen Christmas, but this year the dastardly villain threatening the Harry Potter themed Halloween Party on Wawona Street is Father Time.
A month and a half after the tragic events of 9/11, the neighbors on Wawona Street, between 14th and 15th Avenues, led by Wawona resident, Bridget Wylie, decided to lift neighborhood children’s spirits by closing off their street and turning it into a magical Harry Potter world for Halloween.
This past Halloween was the tenth and final year in which eight garages on Wawona, two houses on 14th Avenue and one on 15th Avenue were decorated with Harry Potter themes. The event has become so popular that more than 2,000 kids and adults attend each year, with a ratio of about two kids to one adult. Most of them are in costume. This year Mayor Ed Lee even joined the fun.
Passports are provided that point out the sites and the Harry Potter themes of those sites. The street is closed off so that children and adults can safely amble from one side of the street to another side. Neighbors from all over the West Side attend year after year, and use the event to catch up with each other, as the children enjoy a safe, fun trick-or-treating experience.
Now, Harry’s voice has changed and he shaves regularly, and there are no more Harry Potter books or movies planned for the future. The Wawona Street neighbors have decided it is time to end the yearly event. Father Time had brought an end to the Wawona Street Harry Potter Halloween.
There were other factors also. One of the original organizers, Bridget Wylie moved to Redwood City three years ago and another neighbor, Thea Gray, will soon be moving to the Oakland Rockridge neighborhood. However, even though Bridget Wylie no longer lives on Wawona, she still returns every year to serve as Horton.
Historically, the event was organized and paid for entirely by a small group of neighbors on Wawona St. They’d pay for the permits to block the street, rent lighted safety barriers and print passports for the children. However, when the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association (GWPNA) president Matt Chamberlain heard that this was going to be the last Harry Potter Halloween event, he acted quickly to provide financial support to the neighbors. He called an emergency meeting of the GWPNA Steering Committee to meet in front of the West Portal Library to approve a $300 grant to help the Wawona neighbors fund the event. The freezing Steering Committee members passed the motion for the grant unanimously.
Marina Hardeman of 329 Wawona is doubtful that any future theme can be as compelling as Harry Potter. This year on Wawona there were eleven garages with the following themes: Hagrid’s Hut, Dragon at Grigott’s Bank, Hogwarts and its Great Hall with the Sorting Hat; Nagini at the Home of Professor Bathilda Bagshot; Lestrange Vault, Grigett’s; Broom Repair Service; St Munge’s Hospital; Entry to Ministry of Magic; Hog’s Head Tunnel Leading to the Room of Requirement; The Weasley’s Burrow, Divination Classroom.
Even without a theme picked yet, there is still a lot of motivation to continue the Wawona Halloween event. Marina Hardeman said it’s a lot of work - but it’s fun. And so many people say “Thank You” to the Wawona neighbors who host the event, that she’d love to see the event return next year with a new theme.