Want to Win a Free Trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Yes, I said FREE.

The International Confederation of Wizards is the brainchild of Keith Cardin, the organizer for the Orlando area Harry Potter meetup group. His goal is simple: to send two deserving Harry Potter fans – who could not afford the trip on their own – on an all-expense paid trip to Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The trip would include round-trip airfare for the winners (applicants must reside in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom or South America), 4 night/3 day hotel accomodations at the Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, 3-day park-to-park access tickets, and $400 in spending money, each. Estimated retail cost is up to $4000.00.

In the spirit of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, the motto of the International Confederation of Wizards is this famous quote from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:  “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who need it the most.” Keith and his co-staffer Tiffany are both long-time, die-hard Harry Potter fans who have already had a chance to experience the ultimate of Harry Potter experiences: to see Hogsmeade village come to life, to have a meal in The Three Broomsticks; to visit the shops and sip Butterbeer, and to walk through the halls of Hogwarts. There are thousands of Harry Potter fans who’ve been able to share in that experience (the Grown-Up Fangirl included), but how many simply can’t afford to do so? It is with this thought in mind that Keith decided to try to help make this dream a reality for someone, but he can’t do it alone.

So, how is the ICW planning to accomplish all of this? With the help of the fandom, and any other donors who wish to contribute. One of the things I’ve always admired about the Harry Potter fandom family is that in times of need, we have always rallied around each other to assist in whatever ways possible. Whether it’s helping someone who has lost their job to pay bills or groceries, or contributing to a fund so someone could attend the funeral of another fandom friend, we’ve always had that helpful spirit that Dumbledore spoke of. Now, if we can come together in times of hardship, can’t we come together for fun as well?

The fandom needs your help to make this happen! If you would like to find out if you qualify, or would like to apply, submissions guidelines can be found here.

For those of you who would like to donate, please click this link.

For those who would like to find out how they can help, the volunteer openings are listed here.

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Catching Up With The Grown-Up Fangirl

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a proper Fangirl post here, and I apologize. Things have been so hectic for me in real life that I had been behind on a lot of stuff. With my Harry Potter assignments over at Hollywood News, along with the summer hiatus of several of the shows I fangirl over, I’ve been neglecting most of my fandoms that aren’t HP related. However, I am desperately trying to catch up with everything. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Harry Potter: Last weekend I attended Infinitus 2010 in Orlando, and got a chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I have yet to sit down and gather my thoughts about the convention, but I did manage to do a write-up about the park, which can be found at my Hollywood News blog here. I will say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve had, as I’ve gotten to meet a lot of “online” friends and they’ve now become real life friends, which is great. I can always use more Harry Potter fanatics in my life. 🙂

True Blood: With the frenzy I’ve faced over the last two weeks preparing for Infinitus, I had completely missed the two most recent episodes of True Blood. I finally got a chance to watch them last night and WOW. I don’t even know where to start!!! I am loving the additions of Alcide and Jesus (OMG his scenes with Lafayette!!), and the casting for Debbie Pelt was perfect! Batshit crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it!! And I’m loving James Frain’s version of Franklin Mott; he’s creepy but so pathetic at the same time, while being scary. There’s just a lot going on in this show so far, and we’re only what, four episodes into this season? Speaking of which, a new trailer for the second half of season 3 premiered at Comic-Con and holy hell!! This season is about to get even more intense!!

The Tudors: After getting completely hooked onto this series this past February, I wasn’t ready for it to end. This was a series brilliantly done, and has some of the best casting I’ve seen. The series ended on a very classy note, although I was sad to see the death of one of my favorite characters, Charles Brandon. I would really like for Showtime to re-visit this series and cast, possibly showing the reign of Mary Tudor, especially with Sarah Bolger as Mary. Would be a very good show, indeed.

The Vampire Diaries returns to the CW for its second season on Thursday, September 9 at 8pm. Supernatural follows two weeks later when its new Friday night schedule premieres on September 24. Both of these dates seem so far away, but at least it’s not January, which is when Caprica is scheduled to return.

So for awhile, at least, I may have to find a few new shows to watch/catch up on, and believe me, there has been no shortage of suggestions. I’ll do my best to keep up this blog a bit better, but don’t forget, for all of my Harry Potter related news, check me out on Hollywood News.

Videos from “Inside The Magic” on Wizarding World Grand Opening

Inside The Magic has posted a great video summary released by Universal of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Grand Opening events that took place on June 16 and 18. The video includes a small clip of an interview with Harry Potter creator and author J.K. Rowling, who was present for both events and seems to be in as much awe of the park as her most loyal fans.

The following video is from the actual Grand Opening event on Friday, June 18; the event was scheduled to stream live, but there were technical difficulties that prevented many online viewers from seeing the event. Dan Radcliffe welcomes the class from Wilderness Oak Elementary School, who won a contest on The TODAY Show to attend the grand opening. They were the first guests allowed into the park, and were ushered in by all of the Potter cast members on hand for the celebration.

More videos from the event can be found on ITM’s YouTube page.

TODAY Show videos from Live Coverage of Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening

The Today Show has some fun (if sometimes erroneous) videos of their live coverage of the Grand Opening of WWoHP. In the first video, Ann Curry and Al Roker speak to the cast members about their experiences growing up in the films and their reactions to the theme park. Unfortunately, it is a bit obvious that the journalists are not fans, as they are unsure of several well-known facts about the series (Al Roker calls Sir Michael Gambon’s character “Aldis” instead of “Albus” and mentions that the Weasley Twins “supposedly” open up a joke shop), but the interaction between the cast members is magical as usual, and very fun to watch.

The next video in the sequence features the first-grade class from Wilderness Oak Elementary in San Antonio, TX, who were the winners in a “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” contest on the show last month. The students raised $9472.17 as part of their “Hearts for Haiti” fundraiser, in which they sold stick-on art for Valentine’s Day to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. The video details their goal, the moment they were announced as winners, and their journey and sneak peek visit into the park.

These students were personally greeted by all of the attending HP cast members and the first “Muggles” to be ushered into the park during the Grand Opening celebration. Their guide? None other than Harry Potter himself, Mr. Daniel Radcliffe.

Video #3 gives a little bit of background history on the series, and the making of some aspects of the park. I think this was the most talked about video amongst Potter fans, because Al Roker and Ann Curry cast a “stupefy” spell which turned Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales in frogs, and we know that’s not a proper spell!

Other videos are also available of Al Roker visiting the shops, tasting Butterbeer and being chosen by a wand at Ollivander’s. All of these videos can be seen on the TODAY Show website at this link.

Official Grand Opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter today!!

Today is the day all Potter fans have been waiting for since 2006, when it was announced that Universal Studios and Warner Bros. were collaborating to bring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to life: the official grand opening for the public takes place at 9:00am EST.

NBC’s TODAY Show began broadcasting live from the park at 7am this morning, conducting interviews with the cast in attendance: Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, James & Oliver Phelps, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, Matthew Lewis, Michael Gambon and Warwick Davis. The event will also be broadcast LIVE at http://www.grandopeningwebevent.com at 9am, so get ready for the excitement!!

Images and video from Wizarding World of Harry Potter Celebrity event

Photo courtesy of MuggleNetLive via Twitter

WOW.

That’s probably the only coherent word I could think of while watching the Celebrity Preview ceremony of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m sure the video, while beautiful, didn’t hold a candle to the experience of watching the event live.

The event included wonderful highlights, including Warwick Davis conducting the Hogwarts Frog Choir in a vocal rendition of “The Hogwarts March” (from the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire) and “Double Trouble” (which was featured in Prisoner of Azkaban).

World renown composer John Williams conducted the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra:

The Knight Bus drove in with stars Sir Michael Gambon, Matthew Lewis, James & Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, and Tom Felton; they were quickly followed by the arrival of Dan Radcliffe and Rupert Grint in a Ford Anglia. Dan Radcliffe spoke to the crowd, and then led them in lighting up Hogwarts castle with the chant of  “Lumos Maxima!”.

More photos and video can be found at Mugglenet, The Leaky Cauldron, and Inside the Magic.

UPDATE: Photos of J.K. Rowling are available via Getty Images.

I will not hesitate to say this, but I bawled like a baby through much of the entire event, but most especially when Hogwarts Castle was illuminated. And I’m sure I’ll cry even harder once I step through those doors a month from now. It literally will be a dream come true for me.

Reminder: Live Streaming of WWoHP events to begin tonight

This is just a reminder that tonight is the first night of Grand Opening events for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Tonight’s event is the Celebrity Preview, where Potter cast members Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, James & Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Warwick Davis, Michael Gambon and others will be in attendance. Composer extraordinaire John Williams is scheduled to conduct a symphony orchestra, and there are also rumors that Emma Watson and J.K. Rowling are in Orlando for the events, although this information has not been yet confirmed.

Muggles everywhere can follow the events live at the following links:

Universal Orlando: http://www.universalorlando.com/harrypotternews or http://www.grandopeningwebevent.com

You can also follow the popular Potter fansites Mugglenet, The Leaky Cauldron, HPANA, and Snitchseeker, who are all represented down in Orlando and will be providing live updates via Twitter all this week. Here are the Twitter accounts to follow:

MuggleNet: http://www.twitter.com/MuggleNetLive

The Leaky Cauldron: http://www.twitter.com/leaky

SnitchSeeker: http://www.twitter.com/SnitchSeeker

HPANA: http://www.twitter.com/hpana

UPDATE: It is being reported that guests in the park have been given light-up wands that will be used to “light up” Hogwarts Castle when Dan Radcliffe leads the crowd in casting a “lumos” spell.

Also, HPANA has tweeted that due to rain, the opening has been delayed by 30-minutes.