Field Report:
Harry Potter 5 Midnight Release Party, Borders Books & Music Novi, Michigan
Dumbledwarf, Hermi2, Norbert

How do you spend the last three hours before the release of one of the most eagerly anticipated children's novels ever? Why, at a pre-release party at a bookstore of course!

The junior members of this review team had been pleading for weeks to go to the midnight release party for HP5. Since school is out for the summer, they are old enough not to get excessively cranky at the late hour, and there was a birthday to celebrate, why not?

Earlier investigation of the release night procedure indicated that only those who had pre-ordered the books would be allowed to purchase them at the release party. To avoid debate over who would get to read the tale first, two copies were preordered and we were told that a numbered ticket would be issued on the eve of the release to allow some order to the distribution once the midnight hour chimed. Knowing we didn't want to be at the end of the line to receive our copies, a ticket was acquired several hours before the party actually began. A good thing too because over 1000 copies of the book had been preordered at our store location and over 500 showed up for the release party!

Again, because of prior inquiry, we learned that there would be a costume competition as well as other activities to pass the time till midnight. Thus our party included creditable likenesses of Harry and Hermione. When we arrived, a store employee dressed as a witch asked "Harry" and "Hermione" to name the four houses. Correctly naming them they were each awarded a piece of Wizard Chocolate (those not able to name the houses were given a Muggle Lollipop). We were also given a "Schedule of Classes" (party activities). Many people, including adults really got into the spirit of the event wearing everything from a brightly colored face mask made entirely from feathers, to tape-wrapped glasses, to students in house robes, to house elves in ragged pillowcases.

At 10 PM the activities started. There were stations set up where children could make construction paper spiders, make their own wands from pipe cleaners and pompons, and guess how many Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans filled a jar. Little witches and wizards could also show off their knowledge of spells and general magical knowledge by answering questions on a couple of quizzes distributed by costumed store employees.

Every half hour, a PA announcement was made indicating the amount of time left till HP5 would go on sale. Each announcement would be met with a few moments of silence and then cheers would break out. At 11:30 the big announcement for people to line up at the checkout came, but here is where they were a little disorganized. They called for holders of tickets 1 through 20 to line up, but then no other numbers were called until almost midnight. Everyone was crowded near the checkouts completely out of numerical order. And to make matters worse, the announcement for the costume competition coincided with the first call to line up. Both "Harry" and "Hermione" received baseball caps with the release date and HP5 logo for their participation. Many older witches and wizards expressed frustration that the numbered tickets would be meaningless, but at the last minute the event organizers redeemed themselves. An employee with a suitably loud voice lined everyone up by ticket number.

Midnight -- The Witching / Wizarding Hour ... HP5, Order of the Phoenix, was on sale! Thanks to the ticket system, the line moved quickly and witches and wizards were able to hurry home quickly with their treasured tomes. We got out in 15 minutes and even managed to read a couple of chapters before succumbing to the need for sleep.

Will we be back for the Harry Potter 6 release party? You bet your broomstick we will!

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