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A (Re)defining Moment for the Quidditch Club

The+team+representing+Wonnacott+Commons+managed+to+pull+out+a+victory+and+now+has+bragging+rights+on+the+Quidditch+pitch.+Food+trucks+from+Burlington%2C+potion+demonstrations+courtesy+of+the+American+Chemical+Society+and+more+added+to+the+festivities.
The team representing Wonnacott Commons managed to pull out a victory and now has bragging rights on the Quidditch pitch. Food trucks from Burlington, potion demonstrations courtesy of the American Chemical Society and more added to the festivities.

The team representing Wonnacott Commons managed to pull out a victory and now has bragging rights on the Quidditch pitch. Food trucks from Burlington, potion demonstrations courtesy of the American Chemical Society and more added to the festivities.

Anna Lueck

Anna Lueck

The team representing Wonnacott Commons managed to pull out a victory and now has bragging rights on the Quidditch pitch. Food trucks from Burlington, potion demonstrations courtesy of the American Chemical Society and more added to the festivities.

By EMILY BUSTARD

Hundreds of Harry Potter fans gathered on Battell Beach last Saturday, October 7 for the Middlebury Classic Quidditch Festival.

“Middlebury College invented Muggle Quidditch in 2005, and [on Saturday] we revived a home-grown Middlebury tradition,” said Tabitha Mueller ‘18, a member of the Middlebury quidditch club who co-directed the event.

This tradition began twelve years ago, when Muggles Alex Benepe ’09, Xander Manshel ’09 hit Battell Beach, armed with brooms and towel-capes, to put J.K. Rowling’s magical sport to the test. The sport has since expanded rapidly, to thousands of athletes worldwide.

In addition to planning and providing referees for the Middlebury Classic Quidditch tournament, the quidditch club also coordinated “food trucks, potions demonstrations, band performances, and other exhibitions created a festive atmosphere that celebrated a Middlebury tradition steeped in creativity, fun, and magic,” Mueller said.

“Local nonprofits, various students organizations, the college’s Small Concert Initiative, and Middlebury faculty and staff members contributed to the success of this tournament,” she said.

“One of our overarching goals, was that it [would] not just [be] a quidditch tournament, but it [would be] a festival and …[a] day-long magical event … about the culture around, quidditch, Harry Potter, literacy, and so on,” said Andrew Plotch ’18.5, Mueller’s co-captain and co-director of the festival.

The festival directors called school districts from Colchester to Rutland to spread the word and send posters that they hoped would reach students directly, and coordinated with Addison County Readers and Page ONE Literacy to set up a book area and read aloud section at the festival.

Other Middlebury student organizations were also able to pitch in. The American Sign Language club helped teach visitors to sign, the American Chemical Society offered a public potions demonstration, and the Midd Acro club offered face painting and juggling. Unfortunately, performances by Midd Acro and the Middlebury Hooptroupe were cancelled due to rain.

Volunteers from the Otter Non-Sense Players and Middlebrow Improv Groups announced the event, and the following New England bands played live music throughout the day: Shy Shape (New Brunswick, NJ), The Giant Peach (Burlington, VT), 10” Personal Pizza (Middlebury, VT), and Aidan O’Brien (Middlebury, VT).

To feed the crowds, Middlebury Classic Quidditch Festival also teamed up with Ross Commons BBQ, Alganesh’s Ethiopian Food, the White Buffalo Food Truck, Mediterranean Mix, Lulu’s Ice Cream, and InSiteful Baking, which is run by students who live in the InSite House — one of Middlebury’s Solar Decathlon houses for sustainable living. Lulu’s Ice Cream introduced a special flavor called “Platform 9 ¾”, and InSiteful Baking paid homage to Honeydukes with their House Scones, Broomsticks and Snitches.

“The Middlebury Classic was the product of a community and team effort,” Mueller said. “Every Middlebury team member from our first years to our senior Febs and seniors worked hard to create an event that we see as a point of connection between the campus community and our greater Vermont community.”

The result? Festival directors estimate that five to six-hundred people attended the seven-hour festivities. In spite of a rainstorm that lasted longer than anticipated into the afternoon, enthusiastic spectators — some decked out in Harry Potter costumes — braved the rain with their umbrellas and raincoats to watch the action.

Middlebury’s Quidditch Culture

“It’s different from almost every other sport I’ve ever seen played,” Plotch said. “We’re running around with brooms between our legs and we look silly. Everybody acknowledges that, but we still take it seriously and have a lot of fun.”

“Quidditch is a fun, intense, all-inclusive sport unlike anything else,” added Ian Scura ’19.5, a co-captain of the Middlebury Quidditch club.

Middlebury has a co-ed team that follows a quidditch rule called Title 9 ¾. This rule bars any team from having more than four of a majority gender on the field at a given time.

“[Title 9 ¾] adds to this accessibility and [ensures] that everybody can play,” Plotch explained. “Here at Middlebury we don’t have tryouts. Anyone can join and we’re paying for anybody’s membership [in USQ] as long as they are committed to the team. Our barrier to entry is never skill or magical ability: just commitment and coming with a bunch of spirit every day.”

Four teams travelled from across New England to participate in the Middlebury Classic: the University of Vermont quidditch team, the “Great Stone Dragons” from Skidmore, the “RPI Remembralls” of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the “Rough and Tough Puffs,” which was an unofficial conglomerate team of players from Wellesley and RIT.

“Even when you’re playing against each other, it’s so friendly, and people are really just there to have a fun time,” Plotch said. “The majority of people just want to have fun and [for nobody] to get hurt.”

Commons Cup and Tournament Recap

Each residential commons was also welcomed to enter a team of first-years into the fun. In the end, Wonnacott wound up with this year’s intramural Commons Cup title after a round of tough competition against teams from Atwater and Cook.

As the Commons Cup champions, the Wonnacott team played one more game in full bracket play. The Middlebury first-years were able to catch the snitch in this game, but the Skidmore Great Stone Dragons won the match.

“No team could believe it when we told them … that none of [Wonnacott’s players] had been playing for longer than three weeks,” Plotch said. “Skidmore is a fantastic team, and Wonacott put up a heck of a fight.”

Many of the first-years who played in the Commons Cup also had the chance to play for the Middlebury club team.

Middlebury emerged victorious from their first matchup of the day was against UVM, when Scura captured the snitch to end the game at 130–8.

“We had a great game against UVM, and [then we] lost but played really well against Skidmore — who eventually made it to the finals,” Plotch said.

Middlebury also caught the 30-point snitch to end the game against Skidmore. However, Skidmore squeaked out on top thanks to a last-second goal that made the final score 80–90. Then in bracket play, Middlebury lost their final game to the “Rough and Tough Puffs”.

“It [felt] like there [was] a tangible magic in the air,” Scura said. “It doesn’t matter what level I’m playing at, there is just something special about it.”

The RPI Remembralls, who are ranked fifth in the U.S. Quidditch national standings, beat Skidmore 110-50 in the tournament final.

According to “modern quidditch rules,” the snitch should be released 17 minutes into the game, one minute before the seekers. However, Plotch provided a bit of context for the way things went down in the final.

“Back in the day, snitches would be released at the first second of the game. They’d be on the roof of Pearsons, or eating lunch in Ross… we once had a snitch get a citation in the bell tower of Mead Chapel — and that was totally fair game! Here at Middlebury we do things the way that we want to, so we brought back old school snitching style for the final game.”

In keeping with tradition, all of the RPI and Skidmore players had to close their eyes as the Scura — dressed head-to-toe in yellow, with a tennis ball hanging in a sock on his waistband, as the neutral snitch for the game — was released in minute zero.

Right away, Scura ran into hiding behind Battell, where he’d arranged to have friends waiting for him in a getaway car. He allowed RPI and Skidmore to battle it out in a few minutes of snitch-less play, before making his triumphant if not not disorienting return to the pitch. Scura’s getaway car mysteriously appeared, and moved slowly across Battell Beach until Scura got out and bolted towards the quidditch pitch with an air horn blaring.

Looking Ahead

This launch of the Middlebury Classic Quidditch Festival is just the first step towards what Plotch calls the “[revival of] a campus culture that is here and just needs to be awakened from its slumber.”

This Middlebury is also re-joining the U.S. Quidditch association this year, which it left in 2012 as the reigning five-time Quidditch World Cup champion (2007-2011). As a result, the team has decided to up their practice schedule to four days a week.

“We are growing our team substantially and will continue to have official and non-official teams that can play games all together,” Plotch said. “We are going to play at a level that we haven’t at a long time, and get to play against teams for the sake of the game.”

The Middlebury quidditch club plans to compete in the “5th Annual Battle of Saratoga” at Skidmore on Sunday, October 15, before travelling to Boston on Saturday, October 28 and Saturday, November 4 for two separate tournaments organized by the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference.

“When we talked about this event months ago, the Quidditch Leadership team agreed we wanted to bring the magic of Quidditch home, and we do not plan to stop here,” Mueller said. “We are already looking forward to next year’s Middlebury Classic as well as this season’s upcoming tournaments and wizarding adventures!”

“I don’t think that there is a player or visitor who left without laughing, enjoying themselves, and having, dare I say it, a magical time,” she added.

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