Central Canada Comic Con with the Winnipeg Whomping Willows

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By Jasmin Winter

Editor’s Note: Jasmin Winter is a player for the Winnipeg Whomping Willows.

The only redeeming part of having Halloween fall on a Monday this year was the fact that the Central Canada Comic Con (C4) in Winnipeg ran the entire weekend before. Alex Downey-Ging, conventions coordinator for Quidditch Canada, contacted the Winnipeg Whomping Willows back in September and asked if the team wanted to participate. In addition to promoting the team and introducing quidditch to enthusiastic fans, the Willows players were also offered free day passes, and were warmly welcomed upon their arrival at the RBC Convention Centre.

Asia Winter setting up | Photo credit: Jasmin Winter

The Willows were given a presentation slot in the middle of the convention floor for all three afternoons that weekend. The previous demonstration, an intense lightsaber match, came to an end and the Whomping Willows began to set up for their demonstration match. The arena where the presentation was to take place happened to be separated only by curtains from, on one side, a fancy car display, and on the other side, a booth boasting life-sized models of Star Wars characters – including a fully functional R2D2 replica. After setting up the pitch and putting up some posters, the Willows got ready to start speaking to the crowd.

A shot of the playing field for the weekend | Photo credit: Jasmin Winter

The basic format for the three presentations was as follows: a quick briefing about quidditch history, a rundown of the game rules, a demonstration by the team, and finally the opportunity for spectators to come and play. Jokes about not being able to fly (“but we’re working on it!”) and inquiries about the snitch were abundant.

The Willows also had the opportunity to announce their GoFundMe crowdfunding initiative, which included advanced screening passes to the new “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” as provided by Warner Bros. Canada.  The campaign, which can be found here, was launched last year and is one of the main ways that the Willows raise money for tournaments. This year they introduced perks that include quidditch stickers, a signed quaffle, T-shirts, and jerseys.

Willows player Anne-Cecile Panchaud explaining rules to eager participants | Photo credit: Jasmin Winter

At first, it was mostly kids who wanted to join, but gradually, more teenagers and young adults came to try quidditch out. Willows team members separated participants into two teams and were assigned to either side to explain rules and ensure that everyone was involved in different positions. For the purposes of the demonstration, the game was played with only one hoop on either side.

By Sunday, an intense game began with predominantly adult participants, with at least fifty spectators. Although there was no contact permitted, quaffles and bludgers went flying, and Willows players had to be stationed on the lengths of the arena to catch stray balls before they crashed into anything too expensive. While some of the nearby vendors may have been justifiably concerned about the rambunctious nature of the sport, the crowd was definitely entertained. After the games, the Willows went ahead and let people try seeking. At one point, there were six seekers running after the honorary snitch, team member Andrew Ajisebutu.

Playing at Comic Con made for some fun games with cosplayers | Photo credit: Jasmin Winter

Participating in C4 proved to be fruitful, as the Willows were able to recruit a talented and committed new player, and even received a request for a kidditch birthday party.

“You guys were all really welcoming,” said Alex Jennings, the newest Willows player. “No matter who it was, you encouraged people to come and try the game. You all had high energy and created a positive environment that was welcoming to everyone. It was the team’s accepting attitude that made it an easy decision to come out and join.”

Hundreds of people were exposed to the sport over the course of the weekend, and those who were there for the announcements at the beginning were made aware of the fact that the Willows are Manitoba’s one and only team. Many people confessed that they had no idea that quidditch existed outside of the “Harry Potter” series, and there was a lot of quality interaction between the spectators and the Willows. People generally took the sport very seriously and wanted to learn more about the network of teams in Canada and internationally. With this in mind, the Winnipeg Whomping Willows would definitely not hesitate in demonstrating at Winnipeg’s Comic Con again.