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story.lead_photo.caption Photo courtesy Nilufar Zaifi The owls of Raptor Rehab in Central Arkansas return to the convention for the second year for guests to admire, learn about and take photos with. Proceeds from Wizard Way of the Ozarks will benefit Arkansas Support Network, a nonprofit helping individuals with disabilities live in the community.

Witches and wizards, Potterheads and Tolkienists, even elves, dwarfs and Muggles -- no matter what fandom you belong to or the fantasy creature with which you most identify, all are welcome at this year's Wizard Way of the Ozarks Convention. Last year's DiaCON Alley of the Ozarks was the region's first (unofficial) Harry Potter convention and was such a huge success, it sold out weeks in advance. For the second year, organizers hope a name change, venue expansion and growth to two days will feel more inclusive to all fantasy fans.

"The most exciting part is you come, you see everyone in their costumes, and then you feel immediately like you're friends with everyone," festival co-founder Staci Bell shares. "It's such a weird, bizarre, surreal thing because there's so many people in the same area that have all have the same interests as you do.

FAQ

Wizard Way of the Ozarks

2019 Convention

WHEN — March 23-24

WHERE — Fayetteville Town Center and Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville

COST — $16-$30; pub crawl separate $15 ticket

INFO — wizardwayoftheozarks.com or email wizardwayozarks@gmail.com

"So that's what I'm most excited about is meeting new people, seeing families with their kids, bringing them up in all of these nerdy things that we're so excited about, that we love so much, and seeing them experience it for the first time is a really awesome thing."

The festival is, of course, family friendly, but some new additions give adults more activities geared just to them in the festival's second year. However, Bell assures, everybody is welcome to attend on either day and there are plenty of activities for every age group.

A Pub Crawl down Dickson Street will take place March 23 after the convention closes for the day; an "Advanced Potions" for wizards 21 and older will be taught by a mixologist that day; and a parenting panel, "Around the Weasleys' Table" will be led by editor, mom and co-host of the podcast "Raising Hermione," Brannan Sirratt to offer bookworm parents some perspectives on raising their own little generation of fiction lovers.

The expanded panel offerings are another area where the festival has grown, with panels this year tackling topics like history, creative writing, mental health and the age-old book versus movie debate, among others. Highlights among the entertainment everyone will enjoy are the new escape room "Escape from Magus Carcerum," a scavenger hunt to win house points, the Every Flavor Beans Challenge, wand dueling, Owls of Raptor Rehab and Potions with Super Steve of Super Science Northwest Arkansas. March 23 and 24 are going to be packed!

"Basic chemistry looks sort of spooky, and that kind of goes right along with what people would like to see at a Wizard's Way convention," Steve Cox -- Super Steve -- shares. "So that's why I think it trips their trigger is seeing all this stuff; it looks mystical to them. And then you learn the science behind it and go, 'Wow, that's practical knowledge.' I'm not a magician, I'm just doing science experiments that almost look magical, you know?"

With some 20 years' experience in "edutainment," Cox knows how to delight and mesmerize his audiences with dry ice, "snow," electricity and Bernoulli's principle.

"My main stage show is just all these 'Ooh, ahh' science experiments that you might have seen Bill Nye do or some of these showbiz science guys -- like the Blue Man Group is actually a musician/science group that has things like I do," Cox reveals. "I'm a science guy.

"If people are interested in something that's a little bit out of the ordinary, that's what I imagine the Wizard Way of the Ozarks is going to be, just by the name of it. There's going to be some exotic characters there. And then in my show, I do some things that you can say are quite exotic also, so you've got exotic flair all over the place there at the Town Center."

"Getting that many people together, especially being able to have fun with each other and then make a big donation to a nonprofit that really gets overlooked and really deserves it, is probably the biggest thing that I'm excited for," Bell concludes. "That and the owls -- because I love owls."

NAN What's Up on 03/10/2019

Print Headline: A Spellbinding Soiree

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