Diagon Alley returns to Newton on Saturday

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By Laurie Gordon

NEWTON - Last year, following the annual Saturday-after-Thanksgiving parade, Newton's Spring Street transformed into Diagon Alley. It was a fantastic idea, but in the days leading up to Small Business Saturday, organizers started noticing that word about the event had gone viral on social media. Sure enough, between 10 and 15 thousand flocked to Newton to be a part of the Harry Potter extravaganza.

Erin Louglas is the owner of Between the Bread and is part of the Newton Merchants Association (Spring Circle), which organizes the event.

“Some sources said it attracted 35,000 to Sussex County that day," Louglas said.

This year, fans of Harry, Hermione, Professor Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort will be back to enjoy Newton- turned-Hogwarts, but this time, the town will be better prepared. Thanks to a new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NJ they'll be better able to handle crowds, tickets, and social media.

“Almost all the businesses are involved this time," Louglas said. "We have music, things to see, characters dressed up too, photo opportunities and performances."

There will be a Quidditch Match, Kidditch for the little ones, Arial Yoga, Magic Classes, Santa Letter Writing via an Owl, The Sorcerer Scavenger Hunt, Face painting, and more. Stores will be decked out with magic and wizard themes and they are selling potions, wands, magical goods, books and everything else magical.

Where last year became a mass of Harry Potter pundits trying to get into town, then trying to find parking, then waiting on long lines, this year attendees will have fewer frustrations, since tickets are limited.

Louglas noted that Newton Police devised a crowd-control formula to limit ticket sales to ensure public safety.

Parking is available at the following locations: Halsted Middle School (walking distance),

Newton High School (walking distance), First United Methodist Church (walking distance),

Sussex County Community College (tickets include shuttles for transportation of guests), and Sussex Fairgrounds (tickets Include shuttles for transportation of guests).

“Financially, this event attracted a family to purchase a home in Newton, businesses to open on Spring Street and active businesses to have a record day of sales," Louglas said. "It's an absolutely incredible thing when people discover our tiny town of Newton - they love it, they love our downtown and they return with friends. We are small, and we need to make big waves to be noticed - so that's exactly what we're doing.”

People dress in costume and the event is a great post amble to the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce's annual parade. Diagon Alley in Newton brings amazing energy to the town and is again expecting “magical” attendance. The merchants have all been working closely for many months to be able to present this extravaganza on Saturday.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Approximately ninety percent of the businesses on the street are involved. This includes but is not limited to; Between The Bread, The Barrel House, El Paraiso Deli, La Famiglia Restaurant, Freebird Tattoo, Dollar Superstore, Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council, Maxwell & Mollys, Hayeks Market, Salon Di Panache, Scissor Joint, Decade of Memories, Feels Like Home, Sensible Addictions, Superior Shower Doors, Orreilys Pub, Gravity Design Works, Penelopes Treasures, His N Hair, Johns Barber Shop, Salon Fig, First United Methodist Church, and more.

Organizers have gone to pains-taking efforts to make the second annual event come to fruition. These include: Between the Bread's owner, staff and Melissa Dixon, Becky Burkhardt and Brad Webster from The Barrel House, Patty Morton and her team of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Amanda Predmore and Will Toner of the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council, Bonnie Bitondo of Maxwell & Molly's Closet, and Joe Webster of PonderRosa Studios. For further information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/120767285257882/

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