When you think of great sporting events in South Carolina, you might think of a college football game between the University of South Carolina and Clemson, or the PGA's RBC Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island.
But quidditch? What in the world is quidditch, you might thinking. If you have a child younger than 25, there's a good chance you already know. Quidditch is the game that Harry Potter and his classmates play while students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the magical school J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
And while quidditch might have started as a fictional game in an imaginary and magical world, it is very real today.
Colleges and universities all over the world now host quidditch teams. The teams are coed, with seven players on the field at a time. Just as in the books, the game is played with hoops, a quaffle (a ball) and a snitch, though on the field the snitch is a human instead of a magical flying ball. While the sport in the book is played in the air on broomsticks, real-life quidditch players abide by the same rules as spelled out in the books, but using their legs to run on the ground. The US Quidditch Association describes the game as a unique mix of elements from rugby, dodgeball and tag.
So for every kid and grown-up who have read the Harry Potter books and wished, even for just a second, that they could inhabit that magical, wonderful world, here's your chance:
Every February and March, regional and national tournaments meet to determine that year's US quidditch champions. In 2017, the South Regional Championship will be played at Columbia's Saluda Shoals Park on Feb. 11-12. Saluda Shoals hosted the Quidditch National Championship tournament in 2016, and Rock Hill played host to the nationals in 2015.
So what should you expect if you go? A few vendors and lots of teams, parents, fans and games going on at the same time. Matches are played on multiple fields all day, with fans following the teams from field to field. Some fields have bleachers, others are surrounded by people in portable chairs and sitting on blankets. The enthusiasm is infectious, and the die-hard followers are eager and willing to answer your questions.
It's fair to say that quidditch is beginning to run deep in South Carolina's bones, at least as deep as a new sport can run. So by all means, tailgate for your Tigers or Gamecocks. Walk the course with the stars of the PGA. But this February, you should also pull up a chair for some quidditch.