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Potter and pals’ favorite game comes to Kissimmee

Courtesy Experience Kissimmee

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Harry Potter and pals played it, and in mid-April, so did 1,600 athletes from around the world when the Quidditch World Cup came to Kissimmee’s Austin Tindall Park.

Some described the two-day event as a cross between a medieval festival and the Super Bowl. Experience Kissimmee, the convention and visitors bureau for the area, assisted with planning and orchestrating the event. In past years, it has been held in Vermont and in New York.

Quidditch has come a long way since two bored Middlebury College students decided to turn J.K. Rowling’s fictional sport into a real one in 2005.

Like the brooms that players must ride, the sport’s popularity has swept the nation and the world. Today, quidditch is played on more than 1,000 college campuses worldwide; 250 teams are paid members of the International Quidditch Association.

Team names are sometimes tied to the “Harry Potter” books and movies, with names like the Silicon Valley Skrewts.

This year’s competition was considered the most elite ever because for the first time, teams that competed had to qualify at regional tournaments.

In addition to U.S. teams, players arrived in Florida from Canada, France, Mexico and Australia. The University of Texas’ Texas team defeated UCLA in the championship.

Games were played continually on 10 fields throughout the weekend.

Between and during the games, spectators shopped, snacked on food from local vendors and listened to entertainers and musicians.

The International Quidditch Association is not affiliated with J.K. Rowling, her books or the movies inspired by them, and it treads carefully to avoid violating any Harry Potter trademarks.

Although many players are fans of the Harry Potter series, some have never read the books or seen the movies. As one team member told the Huffington Post, “Quidditch is not necessarily all about Harry Potter anymore.”