For my thirtieth birthday in February 2022, I was determined to throw a party that was extra as hell even by my standards - particularly as it came after two years of a pandemic ruining all my fun! So I decided to go with a Harry Potter themed party, and specifically, a TriDecade Tournament!
All my friends would gather to participate in an adaptation of the Triwizard Tournament themed around the three decades I'd been alive - the 90s, the 00s, and the 10s. (The less said about the 2020s up to that point, the better.) Everyone was encouraged to show up in their wizarding best - and as soon as they arrived, a betting pool began concerning how many costume changes I would have throughout the evening. (Final answer: seven costumes!)
The house where the party was held, way out in Long Island, was decorated to the nines - courtesy of my friend Allie. The banners of the three great Wizarding schools hung on the wall, and the food corresponded to them as well - finger sandwiches for the Brits of Hogwarts, French fries for the French students of Beauxbatons, and Polish food to represent the vaguely Central European location of Durmstrang.
After folks ate, they put their names in a Goblet of Fire (crafted by Allie), and were divvied up into three teams of six: the Nineties, the Noughties, and the Tens. And yes, I did a bit where I yelled at someone "Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?!" a la Dumbledore in the films.
The First Task of the three was the card game Spoons - well known as the most violent of card games! (Amazingly, it was almost halfway through the task before blood was drawn.) There were two games, each beginning with three players from each team and whittling down to a final three.
In the last round, two golden spoons were left on the table, and the point of the task was to get the golden spoons. The players who got the golden spoons each received a full ten points for their team, the other players received fewer points relative to their placement.
Team Tens took a commanding lead after the First Task, with the Nineties trailing in last place. It should be noted that the team points also reflected the theme: Nineties' points were counted in butterfly clips; Noughties' points were counted in AIM logo stickers, and Tens' points were counted using popsockets.
For those keeping a tally: my first costume of the night was Harry Potter in his students robes, seen here with his favorite Headmaster. When the First Task commenced, I whipped off my robes in favor of a Triwizard uniform (costume #2), and cast a powerful Summoning Charm to get the spoons needed for the task.
Of course, in any TriDecade tournament, one must have an unexpected task in the middle: a Ball! I changed into my third costume of the night, Fleur Delacour in her Yule Ball robes, in order to be properly festive. Fortunately, plenty of the other guests were also dressed for the occasion, as seen on either side.
In the Yule Ball, it is traditional for the champions to begin the dancing. In this case, the Ball was opened by a performance by the Dancing Death Eaters - both dressed as Fleur Delacour. (There is an elaborate backstory involving Polyjuice and secret missions, but fortunately the attendees just rolled with it.) This was Sophia's debut as a Dancing Death Eater, and it was a pretty nerve-wracking performance - many DDE alumni were among the attendees, there were audio issues, and we had never rehearsed with my cosplay boobs before! But we got through the routine, an updated routine for Death Eater Tango.
After the Dancing Death Eaters performed, the dance party began in earnest, with a playlist curated from the three decades being celebrated - everything from *NSYNC to Ke$ha! And of course, dancing to the '90s included a spirited rendition of the Macarena, as seen to the left.
After the Ball, it was time for another costume change! Costume #4 was a signature look: Viktor Krum transfigured into a shark for the Second Task.
The key aspect of the Second Task is that it is impossible to communicate verbally when underwater. And of course, a clue was provided giving the contestants instructions for the Second Task:
Yes, the Second Task was Charades! Each player came up with one prompt for each of the two opposing teams, and I supplied a whole bunch of other prompts - naturally, all based on the decade in question.
And this is where it turned out that certain friends of mine are TERRIBLE PEOPLE. Team Nineties and Team Tens were given perfectly reasonable prompts mostly based in pop culture like "Pokemon" and "The Lightning Thief." Team Noughties were given prompts like "the Patriot Act," "the financials crisis," and (the one I personally had to skip) "Sarkozy elected." Even if I'd known who on earth Sarkozy was, how do you act that out?! Point is, a certain player by the name of Octave is now dead to us.
Each player had one 90-second session, and a point was given for each correct guess. Thirty-second penalties were imposed for skips - prompting some grumbling, and an incredulous exclamation from me: "I'm sorry, did you think you were here to have fun? This is a tournament!" In the end, all three teams got 11 or 12 points, so the standings remained unchanged.
My fifth costume of the night was a spin on Cedric Diggory with one cool twist - in the preceding weeks, Puffs had auctioned off some of their original costumes from the off-Broadway production. Among my winnings was Cedric's jersey, which I happily incorporated into my Cedric Diggory outfit.
And I got a little lion mask because I had to also represent the sphinx, as seen to the right.
The Third Task was by far the most involved, as I had to recreate the maze. I began with red yarn to create a laser maze players had to get through. And then I recreated the obstacles Harry encounters.
To represent the boggart, I would yell "Boo!" at players near the beginning... most of them were not terribly afraid.
There was a square of golden fabric that players couldn't put feet down on, to represent the golden mist that turns Harry upside down.
Then I would cast an Imperius Curse on each player - instructions customized to each player for maximum entertainment value! Among the highlights were when the prudish players had to swear incessantly, and when one player had to recite Disney songs as spoken-word poetry.
Finally, the sphinx would present the player with a riddle to solve. I wrote original riddles themed around Harry Potter - some as a regular quatrain, some as a breakdown of the word in the same format as the riddle in Goblet of Fire. If players answered wrong, they had to go back and do the whole maze again. Hilariously, I used the actual sphinx's riddle from Goblet of Fire as a gesture of mercy on players coming to the sphinx a third time... and both times, the players still didn't know the answer! THe riddles' difficulty was also designed to correspond to the player's immersion in HP, but players were allowed to ask for help from their team in exchange for a point reduction, and it was a lot of fun watching the players puzzle through the answers.
Here is an example of one of the last players going through the maze! If they were successful, they would duck into the next room where the Triwizard Cup awaited them... and then go back to cheer on their teammates.
Everyone had a chance to go through the maze, and were assigned points in a complex and slightly arbitrary way involving deductions, penalties, and bonuses for time. Then their scores were averaged out... and this is where Team Tens ran away with the competition, while Team Nineties foundered even further. (Both players who failed the sphinx's trial thrice were from Team Nineties.)
But of course, there was a surprise at the end of the Third Task! The players were whisked away to a new location, where a giant cauldron was revealed. (The same cauldron that was created for my Lord Voldemort resurrection at MISTI-Con 2019!) That is when Peter Pettigrew (costume #6!) showed up. With the chilling words, "Kill the twenties!" I tossed aside photos from each birthday in my twenties. And then we began the ritual to build a thirty-year-old me.
One by one, I talked about the important things in my life, and called up the friends connected to that aspect to drop a symbolic artifact into the cauldron. Things emblematic of writing, and travel, and dancing, and Disney, and Harry Potter, and my oldest friendships... a dozen total ingredients. To the right is a link to the script. And the final ingredient, in a moment when I indulged some sappy feelings, was someone who had lived 29 years and 364 days surrounded by friends willing to partake in such a ridiculously over-the-top birthday celebration. And with that, I climbed into the cauldron.
This ending to the TriDecade Tournament can be seen in full to the left. Inside the cauldron, I ripped open the velcro for my seventh and final outfit of the night - a Hufflepuff champion decked out in "30" paraphernalia! The jersey was even personalized with my name. I popped out of the cauldron, confetti cannons were set off, and the Tournament reached its joyous climax!
The cake was made by my friend Deanna the Elder - a treacle concoction in honor of Harry's favorite dessert, covered in caramel and golden sparkles.
Of course, the champions of the TriDecade Tournament still had to be awarded! The victors received a sack of (chocolate) galleons, a Triwizard Cup keychain, and (most importantly) eternal glory.
After tallying up the points, Team Nineties came in a distant third, Team Noughties were the runners up, and a very smug Team Tens were the undisputed victors. All that was left was to take team photos, get presents, and eat lots of cake.
That was it for my TriDecade Tournament! It was excellent fun. And we have all agreed that this needs to become a regular event, so if I live to see my sixtieth birthday, there shall be a second TriDecade Tournament in February 2052! I better get to planning!