In 2002 in Peoria, Illinois, an idea was hatched...
The idea was to design a themed event that was both fun and educational.  Based on the success of the Harry Potter book series, two Peoria Park District employees (and crazy Harry Potter fans), with the help of their supervisor, built an exciting event from the ground, upward.

The three worked tirelessly on every last detail.  Tried to leave no idea ignored.  Like-minded volunteers were sold on the idea (my other co-designer dragged her brother into service.  I even asked my Dad to play Dumbledore.  He agreed). Props were designed and built.  Wires, lights and speakers were setup.  Then, that first Saturday arrived. The supervisor thought she'd be happy to have an attendance of 300 people (that would recoup the minor cost of supplies, because most of the first year was spent begging and borrowing).  One of the show designers said she thought we'd probably get about 500 people.  The other show designer was a little more optimistic, and he said, "You know, this is pretty popular stuff, we might even get a thousand people."  Little did they know, the first year they'd have over 1,400 people attend the event. Every year since, the event has been an extraordinary success.  Those successes were turned right around every year put to use for the following year, providing a better experience for the guest!

So what was this event??  Well... it was "edutainment!"  Yes, that's right.  It was education disguised as entertainment.  After the students arrived, got their tickets at Gringotts Wizarding Bank and passed through platform 9 3/4, they took a magical journey around OUR "lake" (lagoon).  They then passed by the Dark Forest with its spooky sound effects, stopped and chatted with Aragog, the three-foot high spider, stopped and took a tour of the Ministry Of Magic on the Ministry of Magic Elevator Ride, and found themselves in the middle of Arthur Weasley's office!

The Glen Oak Amphitheatre became Hogwarts castle and some of the grounds surrounding Hogwarts.  Once inside, there were magical classes.  Don't be fooled.  Remember "edutainment?"  It may be called Potions Class, but was really representatives from the American Chemical Society performing way-cool chemistry demonstrations. There were others like, "Care of Magical Creatures," "Astronomy," and "Greenhouse no.5" but I digress.  You can use your imagination.

Perhaps you were particularly fond of Hagrid, the amiable keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts.  Well then, you could stop by Hagrid's hut for a visit.  Madame Hooch also just might provide some Quidditch lessons!

While you were at Hogwarts, you might have find yourself getting a bit hungry or thirsty.  You could rest assured, The Three Broomsticks, Hog Head Inn and Honeydukes Sweet Shop awaited your visit with the finest in butterbeer, dragons ale, popcorn and more.  They were, of course, all located near Diagon Alley.

In the evening, after the sun set, but before Professor Lupin turned into a werewolf, there were more magical activities. There were music performances by Draco and the Malfoys and others.  There were wand duels.  There was even a full-scale  "Final Battle for Hogwarts" stage production (VIEWABLE HERE) that topped of the final night of the final "RTH" event!  Then there were the movies.  Now these weren't any movies.  They were fully-licensed, huge-screen presentations of the amazing Harry Potter films!

The event was truly a sight to be seen!

It was truly many evenings of pure magical proportion!