Local bookstores are wild about Harry (Potter)

Fifth installment in J.K Rowling series is cause for celebration

Harry Potter has seen a lot in his time.

He went from a mistreated orphan to the savior of the wizarding world in a few chapters. He's talked with ghosts and ridden in a flying car. But it seems even beyond Harry's wildest dreams to be the subject of a billboard on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and a countdown in New York City's Times Square.

All the current attention surrounds the long-awaited release of 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' ($29.99), the fifth installment in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The release date, Saturday, June 21, is almost at hand, and local bookstores are getting in on the magic act.

Bruce Burkhardt, operations manager at Powell's City of Books, is as giddy as any Harry Potter fan about the impending release. Burkhardt is coordinating the downtown Powell's celebratory events, the biggest Potter blowout in town.

'We've been planning for this day for the last three to four months,' he says.

Some details still need to be nailed down. Burkhardt is negotiating to have live owls on hand. 'The zoo has one that looks just like Draco Malfoy's owl, but it's busy that day,' Burkhardt laments. Even if there is no stand-in for Hedwig, Harry's pet owl, there will be character look-alikes, including a Professor Dumbledore to serve as master of ceremonies and plenty of magicians dressed as wizards and young wizards-in-training.

Local theaters have donated set pieces to re-create Dumbledore's living space, and attendees will enter the store through a facsimile of platform 9 3/4 that the Hogwarts students use to board the Hogwarts Express. Each entrant receives a commemorative train ticket stamped upon entrance.

Powell's Books on Hawthorne will have a more low-key celebration. The store also will open its doors at 12:01 a.m. on the 21st and is sticking to a standard pajama party theme with jugglers and costumed characters reading from the Potter books. The highlight will be a raffle to win an autographed, hardcover set of the first four books.

Annie Bloom's Books also is going the midnight pajama party route, which the Capitol Highway store found successful with the last Harry Potter release. 'There was a line around the block for the fourth installment,' says bookseller Seth Tichenor. 'We will most likely open up Artemisia, our art gallery across the street, to help deal with the crush.'

Broadway Books in Northeast Portland will open its doors as the clock strikes midnight, and promises plenty of giveaways, while supplies last, including bumper stickers and bags of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. The Jantzen Beach Barnes & Noble Booksellers is kicking off its party at 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 20, giving partygoers plenty of time to line up for books, which will be released at 12:01 a.m.

Despite the hype, there should be no shortage of books in town. 'That won't be a problem,' Burkhardt says. 'We have 1,400 copies on hand.'

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