Harry Potter fans fill Soldotna store anticipating new release

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2003

"Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. 'It is time,' he said, 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.'"

J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

The long wait is finally over for wizards and witches eager to read the next magical installment of the Harry Potter series.

Fans have waited nearly three years for the fifth exciting adventure of the boy wizard and his pals from Hogwarts School. At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, J.K. Rowling's latest work went on sale.

At 870-pages, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is the longest of the books in the series, and continues Potter's saga as a member of Gryffindor House.

However, in the new book, Harry is now 15, and Rowling has disclosed that readers will share in the trials and tribulations of his adolescence, in addition to all the usual magic and mystery.

River City Books in Soldotna hosted a Harry Potter party Friday night to celebrate the event and began selling their copies at 12 sharp Saturday morning.


A book quickly passed into the hands of a buyer.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

"I've never seen anything like this," said book store employee Emily Berezin, in regard to the surging crowd that had come for the newest installment in the charmed series. "This is crazier than Christmas Eve."

Starting at about 10:30 p.m., a long line of children and adults stretched out the door and down the boardwalk waiting in the rain for their chance to get in the building.

The crowd was abuzz with gossip and hearsay revolving around the new novel. Conversa-tions ranged from dismay over the heist of a truckload of Potter books in Britain a few days ago, to worries about Rowling's own tip about the death of a central character.

"I've been waiting for this about a hundred billion years," said 9-year-old Sarah Evenson. She was there with her friend Lee Kempf and both were in costume, wearing long, black capes and waving small magic wands.

Kempf even had a small "S" shaped scar drawn on his forehead, just like the one Potter bares from his run-in with Lord Voldemort.

Katie Cage from Houston was in town vacationing with her parents. She couldn't wait any longer for the book and wasn't going to let being so far from home stop her from getting a copy. She had called ahead to preregister for a book.

"Harry Potter is sooooo good," Cage said. "They're just interesting books, and I can really get into them."

Lydia Forbes was in line with her father, brother and several friends.

"I've read all four books three times," Forbes said.

Her father said he thinks it's great his kids read the series with such enthusiasm.

"There's been a lot of anticipation around the house," Mark Forbes said. "It will be interesting seeing who reads it first."

The books aren't just appealing to children, though, as many parents at the event could attest to. Debbie Hill was there with her son Michael, and they both enjoy the series.

"Michael started reading about the time the first book came out. I started out reading them to him. The books developed his imagination and reading skills. Now he reads them on his own, but I still read them, too," she said.

Like Hill, many adults find excitement within the pages of the fantasy novels, following the escapades of Potter, Ron and Hermione with youthful exuberance.

"I bought the first one for my husband and he read it over and over again and loved it," said Linda Wright. Her husband died recently, but she wasn't about to stop their tradition.

"We had collected every book, so I thought I would get this one, too," Wright said.

Inside the book store it seemed like there were more people than books, but there was plenty for people to do while waiting for the clock to strike 12.

Children partook in a costume contest, a game of Potter-themed trivia and enjoyed a search for the Quidditch game's golden snitch, hidden in the store.

Themed snacks from Char-lotte's cafe also were available, such as butter beer an ice cream float and Hermione's wand a pretzel stick dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.

In the final seconds before midnight, the crowd counted down at the top of their lungs, in a performance that would have left Dick Clark envious.

The crowd cheered as bookstore employees opened the sealed boxes that had remained behind the counter and under constant surveillance.

Within a matter of minutes all available copies of the book several hundred in all were sold out.

However, long lines of people who hadn't preregistered extended out the door until well after 12:30 a.m. Many had hoped to barter for a book, but found few people willing to part with their copy.

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