Volume 20 Issue 11 | July 27 - Aug. 3, 2007

Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert

Young Harry Potter fans dressed up like the hero of the series at Scholastic’s “Harry Potter Place” book-release event on Mercer St. last Friday evening.

Potter mania on Mercer St. at final book’s release

By Joe Orovic

Witches and wizards waving wands or carrying brooms were out in full force last Friday, as the countdown clock ticked away from six hours to zero. After two years of anticipation, a parade of Potter maniacs invaded Soho for the midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book about the boy wizard by J.K. Rowling.

The people in a line curling down Mercer St. ranged from middle-aged to barely old enough to read. Mostly costumed, some were embarrassed, and all were excited. They made the trip out to Scholastic headquarters, which hosted “Harry Potter Place,” a veritable circus of Potter-phernalia, with fun ranging from juggling stilt walkers and face painting to a giant Whomping Willow and wand-making.

“How often do I get to dress like this and have a good excuse?” said one Tribeca native, 23, wearing a Gryffindor uniform and the trademark Harry Potter Lennon-esque glasses. A lightning bolt was magic-markered onto his forehead, as his redheaded friend stood alongside him, dressed as Potter’s best friend, Ron Weasley. “We won’t give you our names though,” he told a reporter. “Not exactly something we want the people back at the office to know about.”

Elaine Goldman made a trip from Queens with her 11-year-old daughter Sarah to enjoy the wait.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” she said before being interrupted by a 3-foot, 4-year-old werewolf that howled at the reporter. “This may be the biggest book release in history,” she said.

Her prediction wasn’t far off. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” shattered records by selling 8.3 million copies across the United States in its first 24 hours on the shelves, according to Scholastic. The figures may be a surprise, considering its leak onto the Internet days before its release.

“I’ve shut myself in. No book reviews, TV reports, Internet, nothing,” said Lindsay Salls, 27. “I’m even suspicious of links in my e-mail.” But soon, most in line would find all questions answered and all the loose threads in Rowling’s epic story binding back together. The prospect produced as much dread as excitement.

“When I finally put the book down, it’ll be over,” said Salls with visible sadness. “I’m not sure what that’s going to be like. It’s going to be a big hole to fill.”

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