Quidditch match makes North St. magic for Harry Potter premiere

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PITTSFIELD -- Broom in hand, Chris DeFarlo zoomed down North Street. His maroon jersey shining in the moonlight, he zipped past his opponents to grab his prize: The quaffle.

Dashing ahead to the end of the road, the Lenox High student dodged through a horde of Beaters from Pittsfield High School to take score a goal.

The game isn't cricket, but Quidditch -- and even Muggles joined in for the festivities Thursday night, as Pittsfield celebrated the opening of the new film "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."

"It's a dream come true," said DeFario, a Pittsfield resident. "This is so much fun ... You can't fly like in the books, but this is a great second-best."

For students like DeFarlo, the Harry Potter franchise has been nearly ubiquitous, with books, movies, costumes, toys and even food based on J.K. Rowling's seven-book series about a boy sorcerer struggling to pass wizarding school while defeating the warlock who killed his parents.

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"They're great stories and very appealing -- it appeals to everyone who can read a book, from Dr. Seuss to much older people," said Robert Thompson, a pop culture expert at Syracuse University. "Were the books great literature? I wouldn't go that far, but they were sure fun to read -- and I expect we still will be reading them 100 years from now."

And the nighttime Quidditch match on North Street was only the beginning. Pittsfield was engulfed in costumed witches and wizards, wands and butterbeer, and even Mayor James M. Ruberto donned a cape to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Beacon Cinema.

"It's a Thursday evening and I see primarily kids in our downtown who feel safe to enjoy themselves, and to enjoy themselves responsibly," Ruberto said, estimating that 190,000 people had visited the Beacon since its opening. "This is what downtown Pittsfield and the Beacon are all about."

In addition to the Beacon's hosting of a music, trivia and a costume contest, Regal Cinemas in the Lanesborough Mall also was hosting a midnight screening of the film, giving out prizes and expecting to completely sell out 800 seats.

"I'm really happy about this," said Rachel LePera of Lee, who began waiting for the midnight show at Regal at 3:30 p.m. For her, Harry Potter's appeal was almost magic: "It's escape from real life for a couple of hours."


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