As the hands on the clock approached midnight on July 20, hundreds of people stood in line, waiting to learn the fate of The Boy Who Lived.
Barnes and Noble Booksellers on Route 31 was filled to capacity by 10:30 or so Friday night with would-be witches and wizards waiting to get their hands on a copy of the latest and final installment in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” In celebration of the book’s release, the bookstore held a Midnight Magic Party complete with Harry-related activities.
“We’ve done it for every book [in the series],” said Kimberly Palmiter of Barnes and Noble. “It’s an incredible experience.”
Palmiter said the bookseller holds the event in order to promote reading and a love of literacy, something the Potter books have excelled at.
“People love reading these books,” Palmiter said. “Whether it’s adults who don’t read much or kids who are reluctant readers, everyone reads Harry Potter. Then they start to pick up other books — other fantasy series or different genres entirely. It’s generated an incredible interest in reading.”
Indeed, while some partygoers at Barnes and Noble participated in the many magical events held — from potion-making to wand design to fortune telling to a story-writing contest — others sat in the aisles perusing the store’s vast collection or reading other tales while they waited for midnight.
At one point, store employees had to stop letting people into the store as the building was at its capacity. Waiting readers had to form a line that stretched from the store’s entrance almost to Route 31 while they waited for the store to empty out a bit. Palmiter said employees were selling the novels from midnight “until the wee hours of the morning.”
The first person to get her hands on the book at the stroke of midnight was Jaclyn McKiernan, who won the store’s jelly bean contest. She correctly guessed the number of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans in the jar to win the coveted spot.
“I’ve read them all,” McKiernan said. “I got here at 11:10 this morning to wait.”
Those who preordered the book had the first shot after McKiernan, getting golden numbered bracelets that determined their place in line. Barnes and Noble started selling the bracelets at 6 p.m. People who had not preordered the book got blue bracelets; they had to wait until all those who had preordered it had gotten their copes.
“We definitely had more people than ever this year,” she said.
Palmiter said that this year’s book sales exceeded those of the previous book, as well.
“It’s the last book,” she explained. “This year there was definitely the largest amount of hype. This event gets bigger with every book.”
Palmiter said many of those in attendance are repeat customers.
“These are people who read the first book as a kid and are now teenagers and they’re still reading them,” she said. “There’s also some new fans. But all of them are really dedicated to J.K. Rowling’s characters. They really care about what happens to them. That’s just amazing to see.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.