DanvilleSanRamon.com

Cover Story - August 10, 2007

'A Night for Wizards'

Families will focus on everything Harry Potter during an evening of downtown activities

by Jordan M. Doronila

Wizards and witches will cast magical spells of delight and wonder in the black night next Thursday in downtown Danville.

Discover Danville Association is hosting its third annual Family Night in Old Town Danville from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Aug. 16. The free event's theme this year is "A Night for Wizards," which celebrates the new Harry Potter film and book.

The movie "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and the novel "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" - the final book in the series by J.K. Rowling - were released last month.

Rick Kemsley, Discover Danville president, said he is an avid fan of the Potter stories.

"It's a great fantasy. It's like any good book, it's like a picture," Kemsley said. "You're watching it as opposed to reading it. She's got an incredible (imagination)."

Family Night will showcase balloons, a wizard's ring, a hat toss and puppet shows. There will games, music and crafts, plus a station for magic wands and a place to make slime. Also, a science group will make sparkling spectacles for parents and children to behold.

A scavenger hunt will send kids searching in local stores and spots downtown for a variety of items, with 20 winners receiving the seventh Harry Potter book as a prize. The items will be related to the stories, said Kemsley.

"We wanted to pick a topic for kids," Kemsley said, adding that the event is for adults, too. "(Harry Potter) is popular."

Several people in town said the Potter stories are popular because they depict the classic struggle between good and evil. Additionally, some said the characters and story are special, and the Potter books take people out of their everyday lives.

"Probably, it's the juxtaposition with the familiar and the comforting with the strange and wonderful," noted Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books in Danville.

Barnard said he sold a couple hundred of the new Harry Potter books when it came out in July. He said Rowling has imagined a world with depth and range that is deeply satisfying to millions of readers.

Rakestraw hosted a Potter theme night for kids on July 20, the eve of the book release, and from 150 to 200 people showed up. The event included a magician, games and trivia.

Barnard added that around 8 million Potter books have been sold nationwide.

Discover Danville Association hosts events throughout the year to attract folks downtown and make it a popular destination for residents and tourists alike. It also joins the town and the Chamber of Commerce to direct changes in the downtown area as development occurs.

The Town of Danville granted business funds to Discover Danville for 2006-07 to help promote and brand the community. These funds are earmarked for two evening concerts, a marketing and advertising plan and creating downtown maps. The group also added enhancements to the downtown area, such as flowers and benches.

Discover Danville holds many events such as its Doggie Night in June and the Art and Wine Stroll last week.

In past years for its Family Night, Kemsley said Discover Danville has done sports themes. The recently released film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," gave members the idea of doing a night of pirates. But then they decided on the Harry Potter theme.

"We wanted to up the ante," Kemsley said.

Kemsley, who owns Tao Sports Taekwondo on Hartz Avenue, grew up in Southern California and went to Los Angeles Baptist High School. He surfed and dived as a youngster, he said. After graduating, he worked nights in banking and got his degree in business from Pepperdine University.

Shortly after, he started a small consulting business in software. His business was eventually bought by a larger company, but he retained his leadership position in the firm.

As a consultant, he traveled to such places as Singapore, Korea, Prague, Cologne and Barcelona. But eventually he tired of traveling and wanted to spend more time with his family.

"You get burnt out," Kemsley said.

When he retired from that business, he opened up Tao Sports five years ago, and said he has been doing Taekwondo for 19 years.

"I saved enough money," he said. "It's really rewarding."

He lives with his wife Diane in Danville. His son Christopher, a graduate of San Ramon Valley High School, attends Diablo Valley College.

In addition to martial arts and sports, reading is Kemsley's passion. He said he enjoys legendary fantasy writer J.R. Tolkien, James Bond novelist Ian Fleming, suspense writer Stephen King, and Tom Clancy.

He said he is excited about next week's Family Night.

"It'll be a fun time," he said.

Visit www.discoverdanvilleca.com or call 594-0784 for more information about "A Night for Wizards." Or just show up downtown Thursday to see what's brewing.

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