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12-hour Mugglefest lights up Portland, Maine

Harry Potter fans, some wearing black cloaks and witches’ hats, rode the Hogwarts Express into King’s Cross Station on Friday, kicking off a 12-hour Mugglefest to celebrate the release of the seventh and final book in the best-selling series.

An old red-brick warehouse on the site of a former locomotive foundry along the Portland waterfront was converted into London’s Diagon Alley, a store-lined street where Harry buys his wands and other magical paraphernalia in J.K. Rowling’s saga of the wizard world.

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railway, a local tourist attraction, was transformed into the Hogwarts Express, spewing white smoke and ringing its bell as it shuttled Potter fans throughout the day on the 10-minute ride between East End Beach and the festival site.

The crowd of Muggles — non-magical folks — was peppered with youngsters decked out as Harry Potter — white shirt, Hogwarts tie, round eyeglasses, black cloak and telltale forehead scar.

The event included magic shows, costume contests and displays of live owls and reptiles, including a 17-foot albino boa constrictor. Capping the night’s activities was the Yule Ball, featuring three hours of dancing and the crowning of Hogwarts’ Head Boy and Head Girl.

All 5,000 tickets sold out within days of the festival, and another 1,000 were distributed free to needy children.

Diagon Alley’s 25 storefronts, all derived from the Harry Potter adventures, were designed by local artists and sponsored by businesses and nonprofit groups.

The Leaky Cauldron offered a nonalcoholic version of the butter beer served up in the books; St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies — in reality, the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital — offered brochures on topics ranging from lead screening to nutrition; and Eeylops’ Owl Emporium was the place to go to create a piece of owl art.

At Gringotts Wizarding Bank, festival attendees traded dollars for specially minted tokens called galleons, the coins that appear in the Potter books and are accepted by vendors along Diagon Alley.

Flourish & Blotts Bookstore was poised to pass out copies of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday to those who purchased vouchers in advance.

While Potter-themed events were being held at bookstores throughout the world, Mugglefest was one of the most ambitious.

“What people love is the minutiae, the delightful details. It’s our world turned upside down,” said Kirsten Cappy, the event planner who helped organize Mugglefest.

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