Spring break began for students across the county began on Monday. While trips and adventures are on the minds of many families, around 23 local children have chosen to take part in the Livingston County Extension Office’s second Harry Potter-themed event, “Wizarding World Year 2.”
    From learning about insects, known as “mystical creatures,” to wand making and creative writing, participants will have many opportunities throughout the three-morning event. On Monday, students took part in a hands-on presentation from University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup.
    Wearing a bee mask, Allsup mixed facts about the insects with Harry Potter jokes and even allowed some of the children to handle a few of the creatures, like a Madagascar hissing cockroach. While a few children seemed repulsed by the insects, most seemed to enjoy letting the cockroaches crawl around their hands.
    “I live out in the country, so bugs don’t really bother me,” Allison Pratt, an event volunteer from Cropsey said. “I’ve seen my fair share. A lot of times when I see bugs outdoors I might recognize a few, but this is great because you can see them up close and you can learn about them, too.”
    Pratt, 19, was a helper at last year’s event, too. At the time she knew nothing about the books but became more interested in the fictional literature series once she participated in the event.
    “This year when they asked for volunteers, I had actually read the books, so I was excited to volunteer to help again,” Pratt said. “I really liked seeing how many people could relate to the books. The extension office’s craft projects are really creative and you can tell they were chosen with care. So, I thought it was a great experience to be a part of.”
    Staff at the extension office staff gave themselves Harry Potter-esque names, but they also posted new signs on the doors, hung fake candles in the activity room and wore wizard costumes. The building and staff were more dressed up than the children in some cases.
    “This was a very popular program for us last year and Alcha Corban and I just love all of this,” program coordinator Sara Attig said. “So we wanted to see what kind of interest we’d get for Year 2. I’m happy to report our numbers are up. We have 23 wizards participating this year and it seems like they are having a good time.”
    In addition to being a fun event to plan and coordinate for, Attig said the event also serves as an  outreach experience for the 4-H organization.
    “We actually have more non-members participating than 4-H members,” Attig said. “Several of them are returning from last year, but we are proud of the brand new faces, too.”
    The greatest illusion for event organizers is making the three-day event feel like fun and not like school.  
    “Everything that we do through our Wizarding World workshop ties back into different 4-H activities,” Attig said. “For instance, we have an entomology program for people who enjoyed the bugs that Allsup brought in. Also this morning, Alcha, who goes by ‘Professor Corbandor’ during this event, led a creative writing event and each team is going to be creating their own newsletter.”
    Although the event continues until Wednesday, Attig said those who aren’t already signed up may have to wait for next year.
    “One of the first activities that we do on day one is sorting the children into their “houses” or teams,” Attig said. “However, we are hoping to bring this back for year three and the opportunity to participate will be available again.”