It’s a brisk morning after the celebrated Halloween party at Bryn Mawr College, but there is no time to nurse a hangover. It’s game day.
The wizarding game, played by Harry Potter and his friends, has been played at Bryn Mawr College since the late nineties.
“I can’t remember but it was before Harry Potter went mainstream,” says Dwyn Harben, who graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1986. “You couldn’t even get American editions.”
Since she has a car and a shed, Harben is in charge of keeping all the Quidditch materials.
“The stuff lives in my shed,” she says.
“The stuff” includes hoops made of gold tinsel attached to long plastic sticks (these are the goals), foam bats used to beat people in order to make them drop the large red ball, known as the Quaffle, hacky sacks attached to coat hangers (these are called Bludgers) and the most important part of the game: the Snitch.
At Bryn Mawr, the Snitch is a painted gold ball that players hide in their pockets. It is stealthily passed along until the end of the game, when it is “released,” meaning that the player who has the Snitch is about to get chased down the field.
“That’s when the person with the Snitch realizes it wasn’t such a good idea to hold onto it,” says Mara Goldberg, a senior at Bryn Mawr College who organizes the Quidditch games.
Goldberg, who is wearing a pink hat with a flying pig on it, begins the game by telling everyone the rules.
“Absolutely no blows to the head,” she says. Then the Quaffle is thrown into the air and the game begins. Soon Goldberg tosses her hat to the sidelines; it’s getting in the way.
Quidditch is only played once or twice a semester but the two teams, distinguished by green and magenta sashes, are composed of a diverse group of people. There are ten players and they are mostly dressed in jeans and T-shirts, but Charlotte Maskin, a freshman, wears a long denim skirt and olive green snow boots. (Her skirt doesn’t hold her back – she is the green team’s highest scorer.) Another girl puts on a thick, woolen cloak during water breaks.
Matthew Sicat, 7, speeds around the field in an oversized jersey that reaches his knees. He holds a tiny, half-broom, since the normal-sized broom was taller than him.
Sicat, who has only seen the Harry Potter movies, was brought here by his babysitter who is also playing. He says it is his first game.
“I just wanted to check it out,” he says. “I made a few points of my own.”
Danae Ostroot, a freshman at Bryn Mawr, sits in her wheelchair and grips her foam bat, attacking anyone who comes near her.
“I’m having a lot of fun hitting people,” she says. It’s her second Quidditch game.
Harben, a banker who works in New York and lives in Bryn Mawr on the weekends, says she plays Quidditch because she likes to encourage wholesome activities.
“Too many college kids spend all their time getting drunk,” she says. She likes Quidditch because it’s “a way to be incredibly silly and get some exercise.”
Harben, 48, has been playing Quidditch ever since it started at Bryn Mawr, though she had already graduated. She calls it regressing.
“It’s cutting out on adulthood,” she says.
Harben is one of the most enthusiastic people when it comes to recruiting new players. Throughout the game, people walk by, stop, stare, laugh. Goldberg, Harben and the other girls constantly yell invitations to join the game. One time Harben even shouts an invitation at a Public Safety officer in his parked car.
“You wanna come play?” she asks, striding over to his van as she clutches her broom. “You need to come out and make sure we’re playing it safely.”
The girls giggle and continue the game until someone yells, “Water break!”
“Has anybody been keeping score?” Goldberg asks the others as they come to the sidelines.
“Why would we keep score?” One girl responds. “It’s Quidditch!”
But towards the end of the game, it seems like the players have agreed on a score.
“Eleventy-one to q,” Goldberg says, grinning.
Then the players are off again, running, giggling and yelling. And dodging foam bats.