September 22nd is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, making the date perfect for celebrating the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. My bookstore signed up to host a Hobbit Day party, and we were sent a small package of buttons, balloons, bookmarks, and small posters for the upcoming Hobbit film to use as prizes during the event.
Since my boss had turned the event over to me, I did my best to make it interesting. The first thing I had done was reach out to a couple of different costuming groups, hoping to find someone who specialized in Hobbit costumes and wouldn't mind coming out to the store and giving a presentation for costume advice. Amazingly, one woman volunteered. A local jewelry artist named Kelly, who specializes in making art nouveau pendants and elven crowns, agreed to come out, and with an assistant and several armloads of garments she was prepared to give a great talk.
Unfortunately, the turnout was a bit low so we had to dial down the formality. I had worried that the timing of the event would go badly for us - it was on a weekday from 3-5, so adults would still be at work and kids would just be getting out of school. People drifted in and out, but there was never a group of people large enough to make a formal talk work. Instead, Kelly mingled with the guests, many of whom admired her long blond hair and beautiful velvet gown.
We had games for people to play. Two proved to be popular. The first was a scavenger hunt based on the riddles told by Gollum and Bilbo in The Hobbit; players had to solve the riddle and then find that word or item on a book cover in the store. So if the answer was "fish" they had to find a fish on a book or the word 'fish' in a book's title. The challenge kept people busy and, when they finally solved the riddles, we gave them a prize because it was a lot of work.
The other game was more fun - at least, the kids liked it better. I had ordered some sticky darts from Amazon, and I drew a giant red dragon to post on the wall. I glued a yellow spot to his belly and explained that this was Smaug's vulnerable spot, so the goal was to throw a dart and hit him on that spot. Folks got totally sucked into throwing the darts, eventually moving on to try and hit Smaug's forehead, his wings, and the tip of his tail.
Normally, free food is all you need to get people in the door, but even our Hobbit snacks couldn't inspire the crowds. The interest was definitely there, I think, but there just weren't enough people who were able to make a mid-afternoon Monday event. I mean, I managed to rope several family members into coming over, so my brother, his girlfriend, and my mom were all present. But I think that if we participate in Hobbit Day next year, we'll definitely have to bump the event to a weekend time, or push it further into the evening so that more people can attend.