Knowing that a bunch of the kids weren't as well-versed in Harry Potter as Joseph, I gave them a brief rundown of the story (casually mentioning the part about his parents being killed and heading quickly to how he learned he was a wizard and what happened when he got to Hogwarts to start his education and training). I printed out a poster of the sorting hat song and invited each guest up for a turn in the chair after reading it aloud. (No, sorry, I didn't put a cell phone or baby monitor inside it so it could really talk. I just chatted with each kid for a few seconds, asking if they were loyal, or brave, or wise, or whatever, then called out the house Joseph had fairly randomly assigned them to).
No one was terribly upset about their assignment, aside from one friend just being sad for a short time that he wasn't in the same house as the birthday boy. I think they were just stoked to get a t-shirt! Back to the crafting for a second, I had to make the striped fabric in the right colors (well, no one had to, but you know me well enough by now...), and made the ties and the knots separately so the stripes would go in different directions. (Is that pathological?)
While surfing the net for ideas for party games and activities (because yes, I did consider going there), I came across a local entertainer who performs in character as Professor Snape. I was a bit worried that hiring a random person off the internet would be a total disaster, but seriously, he was awesome and totally lived up to his glowing online reviews.
He kept the entire crowd interested, not just the kids, and involved almost everyone in the show. He taught a few spells right out of Harry Potter like Accio, Engorgio, Incendio, and Wingardium Leviosa, and fortunately stayed away from the Unforgivable Curses. Then it was on to lots of illusions and classic parlor magic that fascinated us all.
He gets major marks from me for being communicative, responsive, respectful, affordable, and most importantly, entertaining. If you're a local, check him out at illusionsbyvick.com.
I must say, though, the highlight of the party had to be the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean game. In the series, the jelly beans truly come in every flavor, not just tasty ones. So while there's yummy flavors like chocolate, berries, bubble gum, and popcorn, there's also a lot of nasty flavors like skunk spray, moldy cheese, toothpaste, and grass. Spin the spinner and get a color, then take your chances. Will it be chocolate or dog food? Peach or barf? Juicy pear or booger?!?
Literally, the kids would spit the nasty ones out into a cup, drink some water, then head right back to the end of the line for another go at it! After a while they were all just begging to try every option. Give me the dog food! Can I please have a booger?! Even a few adults got in on the action, and it was great fun. Days later, some of our neighbor kids are still asking to play again when they come over. Hysterical!
Alas, another birthday comes to an end :( Hope I made eight really great for my boy! And now to get around to those thank you notes...