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Hundreds attend public library’s GeekFest
Gayle Brooks gives Thierry Oyedegi, 8, a wizard’s wand on Saturday during GeekFest at the Ketchikan Public Library. Brooks designed and crafted each wand herself. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Sci-fi and fantasy fans of all ages flocked to the Ketchikan Public Library on Saturday for the library’s first ever GeekFest. The celebration drew hundreds of people — a huge success, according to library staff.

The ambitious, free, all-day event featured an array of attractions including games, a flea market, music, presentations, art, collectibles, displays for photo ops, and an interactive Harry Potter experience.

GeekFest was created by librarian’s assistant Michelle Lampton as part of the library’s writing program, which she also runs. Lampton said Geek Fest was a way to celebrate sci-fi and fantasy writing and to bring fans of the genres together.

“Sometimes people who read sci-fi and fantasy, they’ll be more to themselves about it,” Lampton said. “... But if you can get them together, you can really start discussing what’s happening in a book or in a genre. And that can be a really exciting thing.”

Library staff said that they had at first been concerned because two unrelated community events were also scheduled for Saturday. But as Geek Fest wound down on Saturday evening, Library Director Pat Tully said she was over the moon at the positive response, later adding that it had been among the library’s most well-attended events.

Lampton said that after nearly a year of planning and a final push involving two-dozen volunteers, it felt really good to see crowds of people lined up to take part in the event.

GeekFest’s biggest draw was the “Harry Potter” Diagon Alley Experience, which ran from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Lampton called it the “our crown jewel of the day.”

The attraction recreated the “Harry Potter” series’ Diagon Alley location — a magical street where Harry and his friends buy their school supplies.

“It’s always one of the most exciting moments, one of the most nostalgic moments of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, when Harry gets to go buy all of these wonderful things in this fantastic place, Diagon Alley,” Lampton said. “And it’s also something that lends itself to logistically setting up a series of interactive events that have the same theme. So it just made sense.”

Those wishing to travel to Diagon Alley first spoke with Judith McQuerry, who gave them letters of acceptance into Hogwarts school. The next stop was Gringotts Wizarding Bank, where the prospective Hogwarts students received 20 gold coins from goblin bank tellers, played by Bob Simpson, 15, and Willow Kvist, 16.

Participants used the coins to buy magical items at three locations: Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Madam Malkin’s Crafts for All Occasions, and the Quidditch Store. Ollivander was played by library staff member Gayle Brooks, who had created 200 unique wands using chopsticks, hot glue and paint. Nearly all 200 wands were taken by the event’s conclusion.

Maggie Lampton and Olivia Escueta ran the crafts shop, also running a roulette game in which participants could receive regular jelly beans or visually identical jelly beans with flavors like “rotten egg” and “canned dog food.” Krista Kegl ran the Quidditch booth, giving out homemade golden snitches and team flags.

Another popular event was the flea market. Julie Linville sold pottery; Ema Oshima, Chloe Spielman and Rebecca Sysert sold graphic art; Madeline Schlosser sold homemade slime; and Caleb Schlosser sold chainmail jewelry and mahogany swords made by his dad, Mark.

Carena Wood of Gateway Games gave a talk about tabletop and card games, and her company loaned some of its games for the event.

Also on Saturday, the library featured: local bassist Chaz Gist, who performed sci-fi and fantasy music on a standup bass; a space-themed, Jumanji-inspired game called Fandomanji where participants served as game pieces; art including Skyrim-inspired masks by local artist Grace Freeman; “Star Wars” memorabilia; Pop and Funko collectibles; a “Harry Potter” Platform 9 display; cardboard cutouts from Justice League and “Doctor Who”; and a full-sized TARDIS replica built by Michelle Lampton.

The event seemed to provide something for parents, teenagers and children to enjoy.

Larissa Greer said that she brought her kids (and herself) to Geek Fest after hearing about it while donating books. Her nine-year-old son Brennon wore a Flash superhero T-shirt and said he liked the Fandomanji game because “it’s tricky, which is fun.”

Evelyn Nutt, a 15-year-old who was playing a card game called Unstable Unicorns, said that she brought her group of friends because of the event’s similarity to Comic-Con, an annual San Diego based convention, and because she is a “Doctor Who” fan.

“We’re very excited that it may have gotten the message out that the library is really for all ages groups,” Michelle Lampton said of the event’s multi-generational appeal. “There are definitely things that we have going (for) everybody, whether it’s the writing program or author talks or movies or presentations. … We’re hitting the entire spectrum.”

Director Pat Tully said she believed the event drew participation from many people who didn’t regularly use the library, some of whom signed up for library cards. Given the event’s success, she said she hopes to see Geek Fest to return next year.

“It’ll only build on that (success) in coming years,” Tully said. “I can totally see us doing this again.”