The Diagon Alley Project

Located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA, the Diagon Alley Project, is a homemade recreation of the Diagon Alley shopping area from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter franchise. It all began in Summer 2017, when Diagon Alley Project’s founder, Jonathan Chambers, asked his two daughters, Haley and Avery, what they should do for Halloween this year. There was a unanimous decision to build something Harry Potter themed. Avery, the youngest, suggested Diagon Alley, and a project was born.

The girls began drawing out plans for their driveway with sidewalk chalk that very day. The following months were spent researching and planning for the build, before Jonathan put in his notice with work, and began building on October 13, 2017. In the 17 days leading up to Halloween, Jonathan and several volunteers built the majority of the Diagon Alley Project. Gringotts Bank and The Leaky Cauldon came after Halloween, and are still being completed.

What started out as a pet project for Chambers and his daughters, soon turned into a community project for a great cause. The Diagon Alley Project is officially supporting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s research into early detection of pancreatic cancer. All cash proceeds collected at Diagon Alley Project are donated to the PurpleStride fundraiser under the name “The Wizards of Diagon Alley”. They have already raised over $16,000!

Naturally, when I first heard about a local, handmade Diagon Alley, I was beside myself with excitement. My fellow Potterheads and I made plans to go see this slice of the wizarding world brought to life in Seattle, on the weekend of December 2-3, 2017. They were scheduled to have a Christmas event with a Dumbledore Santa, we figured it was the perfect time to go.

Originally, I was only going to go Sunday, but my friend Emma (Swan Song Creations) worked that day. So, I opted to attend on Saturday with her, as well as on Sunday with several other friends. On Saturday, We arrived in our best Hufflepuff gear at around 11:30 A.M. As it turns out, we were too early. The event wasn’t scheduled to start until 1 P.M., and only a handful of other attendees were there, while the volunteers were getting things set up. Even though Dumbledore and the other face characters weren’t there yet, it was still nice to see the Diagon Alley. In fact, it was an excellent opportunity for me to get photos of the actual structures before people would arrive. Sadly, we had other things to do that day, and couldn’t stay until the event officially started. It was also raining pretty hard, we were already soaked after only about 20 minutes of walking around. So, we decided to leave early.

On Sunday, I went with my friend Beki (Epona Tenjou Productions) at around 1:30 P.M. By the time we got there, the line to get in was already wrapped around the block. Thankfully, our friend Sara arrived before us and snagged a spot in line. We were still in the part of the line that wrapped around the corner, but we weren’t all the way in the back. I’d say the line was probably about two and a half blocks total. As soon as we met up, I snagged a few photos and selfies.Beki and Sara were dressed as Professor Snape and Harry Potter. I was wearing my Hufflepuff student ensemble once more.

We waited in line for about an hour before getting to the Diagon Alley. None of us minded though, unlike the day before, it wasn’t raining on us. It was already an improvement. We passed the time chatting about Harry Potter, and I took photos of the volunteer cosplayers that were walking around keeping the line entertained. They had Rubeus Hagrid, Severus Snape, Sirius Black (Billythebrick Cosplay), Gilderoy Lockhart, Rita Skeeter, Delores Umbridge, Durmstrang girls (itsforathing), and more. It was a really great turn out of cosplayers!

As we made it closer to the house, we could see a canopy set up in the front yard where they were selling hot cocoa and butterbeer. Additionally, at the entrance to Diagon Alley, they were selling sugar cookies with the Harry Potter logo on them, and collecting donations for pictures with Dumbledore Santa.

Upon entering the Diagon Alley, through the brick doorway, we were greeted by Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein by Eeylops Owl Emporium. Severus Snape was just past them, hanging out by a stand full of potions in between Eeylops and Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. We then passed the Magical Managerie, before making it to Dumbledore, who was standing at the base of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank playhouse (complete with papier-mâché dragon on top!) Which is where the photo ops were being done. Dumbledore was so sweet, and he stayed in character the whole time. Honestly, all the volunteers did a great job staying in character while interacting with everyone, especially kids. It was such a fun experience! I love how my photo with Dumbledore turned out, I look like a very eager Hufflepuff (I was!). Beki’s photo is pretty great too, she looks very suspicious of Dumbledore.

Photo taken and provided by Diagon Alley Project.

After you get your photo taken with Dumbledore, the line swings around so you can see the other half of the Diagon Alley, while heading toward the exit. They have Flourish and Blotts Bookseller, Quality Quidditch Supplies, and of course, Ollivanders Wand Shop. Sirius Black was hanging out by Ollivanders for photo ops with attendees before they left. There were also various Christmas trees throughout the Diagon Alley, decorated with Harry Potter themed ornaments.

Right outside of the Diagon Alley exit was a photo booth area where you could pretend to be a wanted criminal wizard. We all took turns posing there. Next to the photobooth was another beautifully detailed papier-mâché dragon. Both dragons were made and brought to Seattle by California artist, Frank Carrillo. I met Frank during the event as well, he told us a little bit about making the dragons. You can tell just from how detailed they are that a lot of heart went into making them. They are a wonderful addition to the Diagon Alley Project!

Next, we made our way to the canopy with the hot cocoa and butterbeer. It was there that I ran into Jonathan Chambers, and got to have a chat with him about why he built this amazing wizarding world tribute. We also spoke of some of the build process, along with how much help he had. It was truly a community effort. Additionally, I found out from Jonathan that the Diagon Alley’s eventual forever home will be at Camp Korey in Mount Vernon, WA. Camp Korey is a place where children and their families living with life-altering medical conditions can have a fun and safe escape from their day-to-day lives. I think it’s the perfect place for the Diagon Alley Project to end up. I love that it will live on with the families that can use the slice of magic and wonder the most.

Once we were done chatting, I grabbed a photo of Jonathan with a few of the volunteer cosplayers in front of Ollivanders. Shortly after that, we found out our friends Jay (Raging Storm Cosplay), David (Chameo Cosplay), and Kirsten (Lady Impala Modeling and Cosplay) had arrived. We got back in line again with them, deciding to stay. They were dressed up as young Newt Scamander (Hufflepuff uniform), Percival Graves, and Credence Barebone, respectively. Eventually, our friends Tyler (dressed as Draco Malfoy), Paige, and Ellie joined us as well.

It took us another hour or so to get through the line and go back into Diagon Alley. We once again passed the time by taking photos, chatting about cosplay plans, discussing our favorite Harry Potter headcanons, and theorizing about what will happen in the next Fantastic Beasts movie. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

I didn’t take very many photos during my second walk through, but I did get a few group shots of the Fantastic Beasts crew, and a photo of Beki with the volunteer Professor Snape. I also got another photo op with Dumbledore Santa. For this one, I posed with Jay, we are very adorable Hufflepuffs!

Photo taken and provided by Diagon Alley Project.

When we excited the Diagon Alley, most of the cosplayers were gathered nearby for photos. David, Kirsten, Jay, and Tyler joined in, and I offered to take pictures with everyone’s cell phones, in addition to snagging a few shots on my camera. We stayed there about 20 minutes before it started to rain. At which point it was nearly dark, and getting colder. So, we decided to part ways after a very fun-filled, magical day.

I had an amazing time. It felt so nice to be able to go to an event with so many other people that are into the same fandom as me. Not to mention, the Diagon Alley Project is amazing! You can tell a lot of work, love, and care went into making each of the shop fronts. I feel even better knowing that the money we all donated is going towards pancreatic cancer research.

I’d have been happy about the money going towards any charity or research fund, but, I have a special interest in pancreatic cancer research. My grandma on my father’s side passed away from it in 2009. It’s still so hard to detect pancreatic cancer early enough for proper treatment and survival. I fully support the research of early detection. Not only did I get to see part of the wizarding world come to life, I got to support a cause I truly believe in. I’d say it was a weekend very well spent.

If you’d like to see the Diagon Alley Project it will be up for the remainder of December. Go check it out while it’s still around!

All photos, unless otherwise stated, were taken and provided by Fearless Photoworks.

 

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