The Rebuild of Quidditch at UF

As the remnants of an Epilepsy Walk cleared out, Flavet Field became an empty plane of grass and dirt. Dust clouds flurried, rustling the browning vegetation. The field would have remained empty, if it weren’t for the singular white van parked towards its center.

Gainesville resident Hao Wang emerged from the vehicle, carrying a cubical black and silver box. Ushering the speaker to the stage, he set it to blast songs from Disney films at a volume that could be heard across the entire field.

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Coach Tim Derrick helps his team set up for the Swamp Cup. This event consisted of multiple scrimmage games and educational lessons for new players.

Saturday was the 2017 Swamp Cup, an effort to attract players and spectators from across Alachua County, regardless of experience in the sport. This wasn’t a baseball outing, football game, or a soccer tournament. Hosted by the University of Florida’s Quidditch team, residents of the county gathered to bring the fictional sport from the Harry Potter book series to life.

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Team members assist new players with a warm-up exercise. These players are being taught mechanics that apply to playing a legitimate Quidditch match.

“We’re very accepting that you don’t know how to play, this is not a sport people grow up playing,” said Gainesville resident Meg Cannan. She has been a member of the team since August 2016.

Tim Derrick, the six-year coach of the team, said he saw this event as not just a casual set of scrimmages between teammates. There are two nights a week already reserved for that. This was an attempt to attract new players, the start of a plan to resurrect a team that Derrick said had split over the past year.

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Coach Tim Derrick joins his team members in a Quidditch match. He plays himself to help teach new players by example.

Cannan said the UF Quidditch team used to be the second best in the region. One of the factors that makes Quidditch stand out from traditional sports is that college teams and community teams play in the same league.

She said this led Florida’s Finest, a team dedicated to conglomerating the most skilled players from across the state, to recruit the strongest players from Florida universities.

“UF’s team was a victim to this system, and because of that we are struggling with membership,” she said.

According to their official Facebook page, “Florida’s Finest is the premier Quidditch community team in Florida, with members hailing from Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, and Jackonsville (Jacksonville).”

Choosing to temporarily drop out from the official United States league, Derrick said he spent the year trying to reinvigorate the team, attracting new members to come play through weekday scrimmages and events such as this.

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Team members and new players engage in a game of Quidditch. Each player carries an orange or blue “broom,” representing the team they are on.

Derrick said a major dilemma of coaching a sport that originated from fiction is the variety in player skill levels. As he allows anyone interested to join his team, he said he receives people who run the gamut of athletic ability.

“You get people who have never played a sport before,” he said. “You have to teach them how to play the game and how to be an athlete.”

It is this struggle that Derrick said motivates him to revitalize his team.

“It’s rewarding when they finally figure something out,” he said.

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Coach Tim Derrick advises new players. Newcomers were placed on teams with experienced members so they would learn through play.

Derrick said the decline of the Harry Potter mania has changed Quidditch in Gainesville for the better.

“Non Harry Potter fans have started seeing it as a sport,” he said.

He said this change in perspective has allowed for people who have never read a J.K. Rowling novel, or seen a single film in the saga, to become immersed in the game.

Wang, a member of the team, said, “People get injured every tournament, this is a full contact sport.”

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Meg Cannan struggles to keep hold of the ball. Quidditch is a co-ed sport, despite being full-contact.

Cannan said it was the friendliness and sense of community that convinced her to join the team, and believes that is what will attract others.

“I love the people.”

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WUFT- North Central Florida Collectors Share Stories at Museum’s Collectors Day

Note: This article was initially published on the WUFT site on 1/24/17. 

Link: http://www.wuft.org/news/2017/01/24/north-central-florida-collectors-share-stories-at-museums-collectors-day/

 

Two hundred collectors gathered for the 38th annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Although collections vastly differed, all were bound together by a common thread: a story.

Myena Kerns—Teddy Bear Collector

Myena Kerns said her teddy bear collection stemmed from a childhood love.

“I had a teddy bear when I was a child,” she said. “It was my companion growing up and all through my life.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Unlike most collectors, Kerns doesn’t acquire new items through purchases or donations— she creates her own.

“They’re fun to make,” she said. “Each one has a distinct personality and each one of them looks different.”

The Newberry resident — who said she takes bear individuality to heart — pointed to a brown bear sporting a bright red bow tie sitting high on a large pile of stuffed animals.

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

“This is considered our baby,” she said. “His name is Wellington. He wears baby clothes.”

Although Kerns has been collecting since her childhood, the first bear she made was a gift.

“I made stuffed toys for my children and grandchildren, and it just evolved from that,” she said.

Jennifer Lewis — Spatula Collector

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Spatula collector Jennifer Lewis said her 28-year spatula collecting journey began as a joke.

She said middle school friend gave her a spatula for Christmas, a riff on their shared love for the ‘Spatula City’ commercial in the “Weird Al” Yankovic film “UHF.”

“That started it as a silly thing, but then I really started to notice them everywhere,” she said.

The Gainesville native said some of her favorite spatulas — out of a collection just shy of 2,000 items — were Florida Gator themed but she has grown particularly fond of a spatula she calls “the gnarly and big one, with the bull.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

When asked about the total value of her collection, she said value is decided individually.

Mark Shelton — Superhero Mask Collector

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Mark Shelton said his mask collection stemmed from the bond he shares with his son.

“I’ve liked superheroes since I was a little kid, but now I’ve got an 8-year-old son,” he said. “When I started getting costumes for him for Halloween, he liked them so much [that] he wanted them for Christmas.”

Holiday gifts for his son sparked their regular mask-collecting excursions, Shelton said.

Shelton’s collection not only allows him and his son to become their favorite superheroes but other characters, too.

“So far the number one that the kids love is the Ash Ketchum over there,” he said, pointing to a plastic mask of a cartoon character from “Pokémon.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Shelton said his son continues to inspire him to collect everyday.

“We both enjoy superheroes and going out and finding new masks,” he said. “This is what we like to do.”

Shelton’s son isn’t the only force driving his hobby, he said.

“I do it just to bring joy to people and watch the kids smile after they put them on.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

Miriam Elliott — The Beatles Memorabilia Collector

Self-proclaimed “Beatlemaniac” Miriam Elliott said she has been collecting merchandise from The Beatles  since she was a teenager.

“I would use my meager babysitting money,” Elliott said, laughing.

Her love for the band was ignited when she saw them play in Jacksonville in 1964 at the Gator Bowl.

“That’s been a thread throughout my entire life, it’s a big influence to who I am as a person,” she said. “The fact that I’m involved in peace and justice activism — a lot of that was the direction they led me in.”

Although Elliott said she has always loved buying The Beatles items, she didn’t realize she was a collector until she came to Collectors Day for the first time.

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

“One of the collectors said to me, ‘Do you collect anything?’ I said no, but then I thought for a minute. I said, ‘I do have a box full of Beatles stuff.’”

That conversation prompted her to organize and actively add to her collection, she said.

Elliott has now been presenting her passion project at Collectors Day for 33 years, making hers one of the longest running collections featured at the show.

While her collection is impressive, she said she doesn’t just come to Collectors Day to show off her assemblage.

“Among the collectors who know each other, year to year, we find things for each other and pass them on,” she said. “It’s a nice camaraderie.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)
(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)

When asked about her favorite item in her collection, she pointed down to the necklace she was wearing that featured a discolored Beatles logo written atop a miniature brown book.

“The gold lettering has worn off because I used to wear this to school and handled it a lot,” she said.

Opening the book revealed it was an accordion filled with photos of the The Beatles’ faces.

“I was able to look at the lads between classes, because I got them right here close to my heart,” she said.

As she stood over a frame encasing her first Beatles concert ticket, Elliott said “People would describe collectors as being obsessive, or bordering on hoarding. But it’s really a passion. Each person here has a passion for whatever it is that they’re exhibiting.”

(Joshua Klafter/WUFT News)