Three-Day Event in Elkridge to include battle for coveted “Benepe Cup” and first ever Gender-Diversity Showcase
“He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomach ache. He missed the castle, with its secret passageways and ghosts, his classes, … and especially, Quidditch, the most popular sport in the wizarding world.” – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(ELKRIDGE, Maryland) — From the “Wizarding World” of fictional childhood protagonist, Harry Potter, to real life college campuses and highlights on SportsCenter, the sport of Quidditch has grown into a nationwide phenomenon, soaring straight from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s epic tale, into the hearts of Muggles from every age and background.
“I was fascinated by the actual playing of the game, (especially) when the players don’t fly on broomsticks. But when I went to see them play (at the 2018 US Quidditch Mid-Atlantic Regional at Troy Park) I thought that it was fun, that it was unique, and in a lot of ways it was as magical as I imagined,” said Steve Wecker, a local small business owner in Howard County.
Wecker is no stranger to bringing make-believe to life. His restaurant, Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grille, caters to the wannabe buccaneer in all of us, just as the name suggests. And his location in Howard County, just walking distance from Troy Park in Elkridge, will serve as the official MLQ partner for dining for the upcoming Major League Quidditch Championships next week.
“I’m extremely excited that we are getting a second chance to bring MLQ to Howard County. The county has been incredibly welcoming to us in every way,” said MLQ Commissioner Ethan Sturm in a statement. “Every last detail of the Troy Park complex, from the press boxes to the support structures, was so carefully designed that I know we will be able to run our most successful championship yet. I cannot wait for our players, fans and staff to come and experience everything Howard County has to offer.”
In 2018, TEAM Maryland partner, Visit Howard County, worked with the Maryland Sports Commission to secure U.S. Quidditch’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships with the help of the Maryland Sports Youth and Amateur Sports Grant.
“The process provided an opportunity that Visit Howard County has rarely been able to capitalize on, bidding for the rights to host a regional Collegiate event. The County embraced this unique opportunity with banners by the entrance of the park, restaurant specials to mimic the Harry Potter theme, and a youth training program before the games began that weekend,” said Eric Teisch of Visit Howard County.
The community around Troy Park has bought into the process of hosting large-scale competitions for Quidditch. In 2018, Howard County Public Schools allowed for flyers to be placed in fourteen of their closest school buildings to help with engaging the local community leading up to that event. Although many schools in Maryland will not open until after the Labor Day, Teisch said the anticipation of MLQ Championship Weekend is palpable, “This community (has really) embraced this up-and-coming sport, and we’re ecstatic that we were able to find a way to still host it.”
Teisch said the relationship between Visit Howard County and MLQ started after the organization participated in the US Quidditch weekend in 2018 and were impressed by the overall execution of that event, “They loved the facilities, community partnership, and how Howard County embraces diversity and equality, and they recommended that Visit Howard County submit a bid to host the 2020 Major League Quidditch Championship.”
Of course, like so many other events scheduled for 2020, COVID-19 had other plans in mind.
“Unfortunately we were unable to hold the event due to COVID. That did not slow down our attempt to maintain that relationship with Major League Quidditch. We were fortunate enough to mutually agree on postponing until 2021 and are excited for the opportunity that Howard County will host the 2021 Major League Championship August 21 through the 23rd,” said Teisch.
While the event was postponed for a year, not all was lost. The pandemic closures allowed for both Visit Howard County and MLQ to rethink operations and ways to allow for the event to become more innovative. Championship Weekend will allow Howard County to showcase a number of new amenities in the community including new restaurants, attractions, recent hotel renovations, and – most importantly – a newly completed fourth field at Troy Park. MLQ has also added an extra day of competition to extend their stay in Howard County, “This partnership has worked smoothly from the beginning and Visit Howard County thanks Maryland Sports Commission for their commitment to their partners,” said Teisch.
On its website, MLQ defines Quidditch as, “a mixed-gender, full-contact sport created in 2005 by students at Middlebury College in Vermont. It has grown from a backyard game to an international sport played by over 400 college, club, national and semi-professional teams across six continents.” The MLQ is a national organization that operates between June 1 and July 31 annually, with competition taking place through August 30, when you consider the postseason and championship.
The league is made up of 15 teams from the United States and Canada, divided into three divisions geographically – North, South, and East – with five teams per division. The ultimate goal is for one team to walk away with the highly coveted Benepe Cup.
This year’s championship showdown will take place on Sunday August 22nd, with an additional day added on Monday the 23rd for the first-of-its-kind “Take Back the Pitch: A Tournament to Showcase Gender Diverse Athletes”. According to MLQ, Take Back the Pitch is,
“A showcase that challenges the current understanding of gender in Quidditch and opens opportunities for gender diverse athletes to play quidditch out from under the scrutiny of misogyny, transmisogyny and misdirected misogyny. Through The Gender Diversity Initiative, MLQ seeks to address the very real ramifications of sexism and transphobia for cis and trans women, non-binary folk and trans men”.
“Quidditch is an example of the type of explosion we’ve seen in regards to new sport creation in the sport tourism industry, just in the time that I’ve been in the industry,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of the Maryland Sports Commission. “Two decades ago, Quidditch was a fictional game, confined to the pages and screen of the Harry Potter franchise and the minds of its fans. Now, in 2021, Quidditch is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Not just that, it’s one of the most inclusive sports out there – where individuals have a space for themselves within the world of sports. That’s one of the things that matters to us the most here at Maryland Sports, inclusivity and building opportunity and equity in the sports we represent within our industry, and here in our State.”
For community members, and local business owners like Wecker, the opportunity is one that has the potential to have significant economic impact for their companies, while also fulfilling some of their innermost, childhood dreams,
“The game is highly contested, and the ‘Golden Snitch’ is still the ultimate prize. But maybe more so, is the fact that fans get to live out one of the great creations of all time, if they just believe. Let the games begin!”
What: 2021 Major League Quidditch Championships
When: August 21 to 23, 2021
Where: Troy Park, Elkridge, Maryland
Schedule of Events: https://mlqchampionship.com/schedule