Students Bring Magic to Wizarding Weekend

By Maddie Veneziano ’20, October 30, 2019
Ithaca College students collaborate with downtown festival for capstone course.

For many people in the Ithaca community, Wizarding Weekend is a time to come together and celebrate all things magic and fantasy. For Ithaca College seniors Caroline Anson, Chloe Landau and Joey LoPiccolo, it also means business. They have been assisting the festival directors with this event as part of the Public Relations Lab, the capstone course for integrated marketing communications majors.

Students in the lab are organized into small groups that work with local clients throughout the semester. The students and clients work together to identify areas where the client needs support, and the students use their knowledge from previous courses and internships to assist in public relations efforts. For Wizarding Weekend, held October 26-27, Anson, Landau and LoPiccolo drafted press releases, designed posters, organized a press conference and recruited volunteers.

Landau, who is a self-professed fan of conventions and festivals like Wizarding Weekend, said that her favorite part of this process was being able to see the behind the scenes magic that takes place to create an event she has admired for years. “I volunteered for Wizarding Weekend when I was a first-year at IC, so working on the event now feels like I've come full circle,” she said.

(Photo by Maddie Veneziano ’20/Ithaca College)

Witch-themed clothing and accessories are sold by vendors at Wizarding Weekend.

One challenge that the group faced was having to change certain promotional materials at the last second due to ongoing legal issues between Wizarding Weekend and Warner Brothers. This meant that the group had to be careful in choosing the wording and images they used in posters. LoPiccolo said that this challenge gave his group an experience they wouldn’t have encountered in a traditional classroom setting.

“Imagine an assignment where nine-tenths of the way through, the professor started changing goals and expectations,” LoPiccolo said. “There would be public outrage and a mob, even if it provided real-world experience.”

This real-world experience can sometimes challenge students, according to associate professor Arhlene Flowers, who teaches the PR Lab course, but does so in a safe and supportive environment. She said this allows students to learn what it’s like to work with clients, and it’s also something they can put on their e-portfolio and talk about in job interviews. Overall, she has noticed that students enjoy working with real-life clients.

“I firmly believe in experiential learning,” Flowers said. “I found that students learned a lot more from working with real-world organizations.”

This opportunity also allows students, like Anson, to get experience in the fields they know they want to go into after graduation.

“It’s definitely helpful because I do want to go into event planning and marketing,” Anson said. “So it’s really good.”

Though the festival only happens once a year, the PR Lab students still have a lot of work to do the rest of the semester. Next year, Wizarding Weekend will become the “GorgeKeep Festival,” leaving the team to start rebranding efforts for next year’s event.