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April 2, 2014

Attention muggles: Quidditch World Cup staged in North Myrtle Beach this weekend

”Harry Potter” fantasy game turns into real competition for collegians

In a November 2012 cover story, Weekly Surge heralded the growing popularity of collegiate Quidditch – a club sport that took a fictional game from the “Harry Potter” series and brought it to life on college campuses everywhere – bringing the world of Seekers, Beaters, Bludgers, Keepers and Chasers – and even the elusive Golden Snitch – to muggles [non-wizards] on terra firma.

In our own back yard, Coastal Carolina University was already active in Quidditch. The same for our neighbors to the south, College of Charleston.

We also covered an organization called the International Quidditch Association or IQA, which was and is growing by leaps and bounds and was then organizing its sixth IQA World Cup, which took place in Kissimmee, Fla., in March 2013.

By a stroke of magic – the IQA chose the brand new North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex to be the home of this year’s World Cup, which takes place this weekend. As a result of what the IQA has called a “fantastic bid,” North Myrtle beat out Kissimmee. “Our executive staff arrives at the beginning of this week, and setup will continue throughout the week,” says IQA marketing director Logan Anbinder. “The teams arrive on Thursday and Friday, and we’ll be holding captains’ meetings on Friday evening to go over final details. The City of North Myrtle Beach has been incredibly accommodating and helpful, and it’s been amazing to work with them to make this event happen.”

City of North Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation director John Bullard says the facility will be full on Saturday, because it is also opening day for youth baseball there. “With 80 Quidditch teams and fans, 49 of our local baseball/softball teams and families, in addition to normal park users on the trails and Dog Park – we will be at maximum capacity.”

With the World Cup happening right here on the Grand Strand, it seems cruelly ironic that CCU’s squad and College of Charleston won’t be on the playing field.

CCU Quidditch is registered with the IQA, according to team captain Ashley Michels, but is not yet what she calls a tournament team. “This means that we cannot participate in the regional tournament in order to qualify for the World Cup,” she says, adding that funding is the main reason for this. “Many of the members cannot afford to pay for IQA membership and travel is very expensive.” She asserts that the team is steadily growing and improving and hopes to become an official tournament team within the next few years.

CCU is involved with an organization called Carolinas Quidditch Conference, or CQC. “Participating in the CQC helps us develop our game without having to spend as much money if we were only playing for IQA.” But she says most of the team is volunteering at the World Cup. “Going to the World Cup helps us learn new ways to improve our game and see what we can expect once we become a tournament team.”

College of Charleston did not make it into World Cup play this year – but the Holy City team played in three previous IQA World Cup events. Team members will also be present at this year’s event. This despite CofC winning the CQC Championship at Winthrop University last weekend.

“I would say that it’s disappointing that CofC didn’t make World Cup, especially after last weekend,” says CQC Commissioner Jeffrey Lusk. “They beat multiple World Cup teams en route to becoming this year’s [CQC] champions.”

In addition to Quidditch, the World Cup also features live entertainment including wizard rockers Harry and the Potters, singer-songwriter Howie Day and magician Carl Michael, who will be doing scheduled pop-up sessions each day. “Muggles will get a chance to witness my wizardry skills up close,” he says.

Michael [@cmmagic] will be tweeting throughout the event. “Quidditch is a very interesting game,” he says. “It’s fast paced and I enjoy any competitive sport.”

IQA’s Anbinder compares World Cup eligibility policies to the NCAA’s March Madness. “The physical venues are chosen in advance, and each team is required to qualify,” he says. “We definitely hope that players and fans from the local schools will still come out to watch, and hopefully prepare for next year’s event.”

And the City of North Myrtle beach is ready. “Our goal is to do everything possible to make sure the players, spectators and [IQA] have a great experience in North Myrtle Beach,” says Bullard. “We also expect a significant economic impact from the event. [The World Cup] will bring many first time visitors to our city. If they have a positive experience, they will return in the future as tourists, which helps our local economy.”

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