- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Bookstores decorated like the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Children and store employees dressed like wizards and witches.

Movies. Trivia contests. Face painting. Free food.

It’s Harry Potter Eve in Washington.

Wizards and witches will reign at bookstores tonight as retailers celebrate the midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by throwing parties and staying open late.

Fans of the series have been waiting three years for the latest battle between the bespectacled boy wizard and the evil Lord Voldemort. The publisher Scholastic is printing a record 8.5 million copies of the fifth book in the United States, and stores across the country are expecting to sell thousands of copies each in the first week.

The 896-page novel by British author J.K. Rowling is aimed at 9- to 12-year- olds, but children and adults alike have become fans of the series, especially since the release of the first two movie adaptations, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Douglas Haines, manager of the Borders Books & Music in Germantown, said his store will be “Harry Potter-o-rama.”

The store’s entrance is decorated like the Hogwarts school, and costumed staff will sell books from stations designed to look like the four competing houses of Hogwarts.

“This is a really big deal, the biggest book release ever,” Mr. Haines said. “We’ve been preparing for this since January.”

Evening activities will include wand- and cape-making, Harry Potter trivia contests, scavenger hunts and food.

The store is preparing for 200 to 300 people tonight and more tomorrow. Eighteen staff members, twice as many as usual, will be working to handle the late-night crowd, he said.

“It’s been a dreary year in Washington,” he said. “This will make a whole lot of kids happy, and I am really looking forward to seeing the smiles on their faces.”

The Clarendon Market Commons Barnes & Noble will screen “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” at 8:30 p.m. in the courtyard by the store, said Melissa Subt, community-relations manager.

“The goal is to bring the book to life,” she said.

The store will start selling the books at 12:01 a.m. and will stay open until the last customer leaves — which could be awhile.

“For the 2000 Harry Potter release, there were hundreds of people, so we’re expecting quite a few for this one,” she said. “There is so much hype surrounding this, and everyone is so excited.”

Mrs. Rowling’s four previous Potter novels have sold more than 190 million copies in 55 languages and 200 countries.

The Books-a-Million at Dupont Circle is having a party with refreshments, face painting, trivia games and crafts. The winner of a costume contest will win a copy of the book.

Marc Johnson, the store’s general manager, said at least 10 of his 20 employees will work.

“I’m expecting it to be a madhouse in here — but in a good way,” he said.

The party starts at 9:30 p.m. and ends just before the books go on sale at midnight. The store will stay open until the last customer leaves.

The DeBrosse family of Dayton, Ohio, are big fans of the series and are eager to find out what happens in Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts.

Eleven-year-old Madeline is especially excited and hopes to buy the book Saturday morning.

“It’s exciting, and the story is very imaginative,” said Madeline, eyeing the Harry Potter display at the B. Dalton in Union Station. “I really like the characters, and I want to read the new book.”

Customers of the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown tomorrow will be given their own set of Harry Potter-style glasses, community-relations manager Greg Scheitler said, and there will be activities throughout the morning to get them in the wizardry mood.

“We will have the kids take turns reading the first chapter of the book and will be giving prizes away throughout the day,” he said. “Harry Potter is the biggest release for every bookstore, so it will be an interesting day.”

Mr. Scheitler said Barnes & Noble stores throughout the region were taking pre-orders for the book and expect huge crowds.

Smaller stores are also getting ready.

Fairy Godmother Children’s Books and Toys in Southeast will open two hours early Saturday and serve refreshments, manager Roberta Blanchard said.

“We’re a small store oriented to children, so the book has been very popular here,” she said.

Security for the release is tight. Retailers worldwide had to sign an agreement promising to honor a global embargo on sales. Boxes are to remain unopened until Saturday at 12:01 a.m.

Washington-area stores are using every precaution to ensure none of the books is released to the public.

At the Germantown Borders, Mr. Haines said the books are still boxed, wrapped and sealed on pallets in the stockroom, not to be opened until this morning.

“They are locked away in a storage unit,” he said. “They came off the truck, we counted them, and then they went straight to the storage area. This book has been so widely anticipated. A lot of people are excited and a lot of people are looking to get their hands on them.”

In Clarendon, Ms. Subt said her store’s books are secure.

“You know that three-headed monster in the first Harry Potter book?” she said. “He’s guarding the books. He’s covering all of the security for us.”

Despite the precautions, a few copies have found their way into some muggles’ hands.

Mrs. Rowling sued the New York Daily News on Wednesday for $100 million after the paper got an early copy of the novel and printed details of the story. The paper bought the book at a Brooklyn health-food store where employees put the books on the shelves before the scheduled release.

And on Sunday, a thief stole a tractor-trailer holding 7,680 copies of the book in Newtown-le-Willows in Northern England, where the books were awaiting distribution. The books have an estimated retail value of $220,000.

In Montreal, a Canadian woman bought a copy of “Phoenix” at a Wal-Mart on June 12, and two more copies were sold at the store just as employees were removing them from the shelves.

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