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Wild about Harry

Bookstores gearing up for midnight release of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

Bookstores gearing up for midnight release of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

July 14, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

TRI-STATE

heatherk@herald-mail.com

With more than 5,000 stores nationwide planning midnight launch parties for the July 16 release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," fans won't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to find out what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is up to or if Ron and Hermione finally get together.

"The fans are dying to know what happens next," said Virginia Anagnos, spokeswoman for Scholastic, the book's publishing company. "They just plop themselves on the store floor and start reading it immediately. They read it at the cash registers as their mom is paying for it."

The book will go on sale at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and several area bookstores plan to stay open late or open early to sell it. About 1,000 stores held special events when the fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," came out in 2003, Anagnos said.

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Borders Books Music & Cafe at the Centre at Hagerstown on Garland Groh Boulevard expects between 1,500 and 2,000 guests for a Harry Potter launch party, with activities such as a trivia contest and treasure hunt beginning at 9 p.m. Friday, manager Ed Mitchell said.

The book also will be available at midnight at the neighboring 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter and at Valley Mall's Waldenbooks, as well as at the 24-hour Wal-Mart stores in Chambersburg, Pa., and Martinsburg, W.Va.

Even some smaller, independent bookstores such as Dru's Books 'n Things in Waynesboro, Pa., plan midnight launch parties to feed the voracious demand for the latest in the popular series.

"This is the first time we're trying it," said Dru's Books owner Dru Cairns. "With the fifth book, we had people waiting when we opened at 9 (a.m.)."

Like Borders, Dru's Books invites fans to come in costume and is offering special discounts and prizes. Cairns said she had no problem convincing staff members to work the extra hours - the hard part was finding people willing to skip the party so they could work in the morning.

"I imagine every bookstore in the country is going to be doing something," Mitchell said. "This is the biggest book release of the year."

The excitement isn't limited to bookstores, either. In Brunswick, Md., several local businesses are joining Book Crossing to host a block party with events beginning at 8 p.m. such as face painting at House Remedies, scarf making at Sewing Unlimited and a city-sponsored movie showing at 9:30 p.m. in Square Corner Park.

Many bookstores that couldn't host midnight launch parties are finding other ways to get a head start on sales.

"We wanted to stay open but we couldn't because there isn't security or lighting out here," said Dennis Ford, manager of Book Cellar at Prime Outlets in Hagerstown. Instead, Book Cellar will open early at 6 a.m. Saturday and offer a light breakfast.

Turn The Page Book Store and Cafe in Boonsboro will not be hosting a launch party either, but employee Stacie Aufdem-Brinke said she hopes parents will pick it up for their children when they attend a Saturday book signing by author Nora Roberts, who owns the store with her husband.

The area's launch celebrations might not match those planned in Arizona, where Anagnos said there will be fire dancers, or Ohio, where one book store will parade a "live unicorn" down Main Street, but local retailers are preparing for packed stores and plenty of excitement.

At Borders, Mitchell said he expects the most devoted fans to begin arriving around noon Friday. The store will hand out color-coded tickets on a first-come, first-served basis to those who have reserved the book, and these will determine the order in which they get the books at midnight. Because the store's fire capacity is only about 650, employees hope to turn the parking lot into a tailgate party and hold many of the activities outdoors.

"Bring a sense of Harry Potter," Mitchell advised fans. "It's gonna be crowded, but it's gonna be fun."

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