For all its magic and hype, the Harry Potter books are about characters.
And Friday the characters came out, as Waucoma Bookstore opened at 11:30 p.m. for a midnight release of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
The book sold eight million copies worldwide in the first two days after it went on sale, and 350 of those were at Waucoma. Nearly that many people, many in pajamas or costumes, stayed up late and came out to be among the first on the block to read the 870-page fifth installment of the beloved series.
“We’re thrilled that so many people would come out,” owner Sally LaVenture said. Waucoma sold 250 books during the pajama party, and its remaining 50 on Saturday.
“We’ve received another 50 today (Monday), and they sold out,” manager Rose Kelly said. “They’re now sold out everywhere. We ordered from the publisher today but there are so many orders worldwide they can’t process them all in one day.
“We debated and debated how many we’d get, and for awhile we thought we’d be heavy,” Kelly said. “We never dreamt we’d sell out, nor how many people would show up.”
Show up they did. People squeezed into the store wherever they could find a space, while young volunteers served milk, juice and cookies. Store staff passed out numbered tickets at the door, and once midnight struck they sold the books in that order.
LaVenture described the room as “claustrophobic” just before the books went on sale, when she and Kelly led a countdown to midnight. One girl even fainted a few minutes earlier.
The store held a contest for best costume, and the award went to the Engbersen family of Hood River. Two of the trio came as fairly unlikely Harry Potter characters: dad Rutger as the sneering Professor Snapes, he of “Dark Arts” and jet-black mop top and gown, and son Nils, as sneering blond Draco Malfoy, Harry’s nemesis peer. Nils’ sister, Anika, dressed convincingly like Hermione Granger, Harry’s scholarly sidekick. Trivia contest winner was Kate McGronz, visiting from Minnesota.
LaVenture and Kelly planned their first midnight pajama party, a growing Harry Potter book release tradition, not knowing quite what to expect.
Kelly said she “got an inkling” on Friday.
“We got so many calls, from parents who said they were bringing down as many as six kids. One family held a slumber party, and made an event. They brought down nine children. We saw a lot of that, where people made it into a party.
“It was such a great community thing,” Kelly said. “Even though we were a little overwhelmed, everyone was very patient and I think they had a good time.”
As LaVenture put it early Saturday morning, “It looks like they’re here for a party.”
Ashley Kastner, 14, was among the first in line.
“Finding out what happens,” was the incentive to read the book at first opportunity.
“Pretty fun,” was how Peter Debbaut, 13, described the midnight party.
“I want lots of fun and adventure and cool stuff,” in the new book,“ said Debbaut, who has read the other Harry Potter adventures.