Unless you’ve been living under a sorcerer’s stone, you’ve probably heard of a game called "Quidditch." And you may be aware that it exists not just in the fictional world of Harry Potter, but in real life too. WMRA’s Mike Tripp recently met with one Staunton couple to explain this sport, featured during the recent Queen City Mischief & Magic festival.
CHRIS PUGH: ...Want a good clean game! No biting, spitting or cussing! Alright! … Brooms up!
And just like that, the game is afoot. And it IS on foot – unlike the games at Hogwarts, the contestants are decidedly earthbound rather than flying around on brooms. Players propel their brooms forward under foot-power as the game of Quidditch begins. The setting? … The middle of West Beverly Street in the heart of downtown Staunton during September’s Queen City Mischief & Magic festival.
CHRIS: Hello, I’m Godric Gryffindor, and I’m the head of House Gryffindor at Hogwarts.
MIA PUGH: I’m Helga Hufflepuff. The founder of the Hufflepuff House of Hogwarts.
Of course, these are not their real names but the names of the characters they portray.
CHRIS: No, my name is Chris Pugh and my wife here, Mia Pugh, who so graciously has been with me all these many years. We have had Medieval Fantasies Company together for over 15 years now.
Through their business, the pair host and assist with medieval, renaissance and fantasy-themed events.
CHRIS: So how does Harry Potter play into all that sort of thing? The books, they’re just set in those various time periods, through into modern times. And with Staunton being a Victorian city and so much of the Victorian history preserved here, it seemed like the perfect match.
The pair are only two of the many volunteers at the festival. Besides portraying two of the Hogwarts’ founders, they also officiate Quidditch matches. Their skill sets are perfect for this. And that brings us back to the game, where House Slytherin faces off against House Hufflepuff. For those who haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s stories about Harry Potter, or seen the movies, here is how it goes….
MIA: Quidditch is somewhat of a magical game. Seven players from each house. Two houses at a time playing against one another. And they have a set of chasers, keepers and beaters. And the idea is to get quaffle through the rings without being totally knocked off your brooms.
The rings she speaks of are three sets of rings at either end of the field of play, not unlike hoops on a basketball court but upright instead of horizontal.
MIA: A quaffle is the main ball in play and that is what we pass between the chasers.
The chasers are the ones responsible for passing the quaffle and scoring points. Keepers protect the hoops, keeping the other team’s chasers from scoring, not unlike goalies in other sports. Beaters are the ones working with the bludgers … or slightly deflated dodgeballs. They throw these at the opposing team’s players, seeking to knock them momentarily out of play. Beaters may also attempt to catch bludgers throw at them. Now, we come to the snitch.
CHRIS: The Golden Snitch. Now of course all the points are collected during the match, and they do count. And it does matter. The issue of getting the golden snitch isn’t nearly as difficult as maintaining possession of the golden snitch
MIA: A golden snitch is a small golden ball, typically winged. Therefore, making it very difficult to maintain possession of it. Larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball.
In the muggle version of Quidditch, the snitch is carried by a player, and it works kind of like an elaborate game of tag. If he or she is caught by the opposing team’s seeker, the snitch changes hands.
CHRIS: And this continues back and forth until the game is called. And whoever is in possession of the golden snitch, typically that’s the team that wins.
And did we mention all of this is done while holding onto a broom? They are supposed to be witches and wizards, after all. So, what’s the response been to the sport in the Queen City?
MIA: Well, we have had a wonderful response to the Quidditch matches. The first one we had on Beverly Street; the streets were lined with patrons. So, we normally have between two to three individuals per house to join us. And that builds even more excitement because the children always want to get there early so they can get a spot on the team.
Staunton Parks and Recreation actually held Quidditch clinics during the festival, teaching the positions and rules of the game to festival goers.
Although Parks and Rec has no specific plans, should enough people express an interest in the sport, they remain open to a possibility of a future Quidditch league.
And now that the sport’s season has passed, the Pughs already are looking towards their next event scheduled for the Queen City.
MIA: Yes. Our "All Hallows Eve Gala" is going to be held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. And by being in the ball room, you’ll be transformed into what a Victorian social would have been in the time around 1870s. So, we will have individuals dressed in grand Victorian attire. And along with our séances and literary readings, we will have music and food.
The gala takes place Friday, October 18th. And, not to bury the lead on Quidditch results… House Sytherin defeated Hufflepuff in Queen City Magic and Mischief’s opening round while Ravenclaw defeated Gryffindor. In the end, it was Ravenclaw that came out on top and won the championship. But for the other Hogwarts houses, there’s always next year.