Harry Potter fans reach the end of a magical journey
July 22, 2007
WIESBADEN, Germany — This was one witching hour that couldn’t come soon enough for a lot of well-meaning mortals.
No matter the time zone, no matter the events of the preceding day, countless numbers of young and old readers across the globe queued up at midnight Friday to learn the fate of a certain boy wizard.
“We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter,” reads the inside jacket of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
In U.S. military communities across Europe, kids rarely accustomed to staying up late — really late — were granted a parental pardon in the name of Potter. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, through its BookMark stores, was more than willing to be complicit, staging all sorts of activities at select locations.
“This is a great thing for them to do,” Dana West of Darmstadt, who was present with her husband and two children, said of AAFES as she looked over the crowded bookstore in Wiesbaden.
It was a half-hour before midnight and kids ranging from toddlers to teens were playing Potter trivia, getting their faces painted or traipsing around in wizard’s wear, wand in hand.
“They’re not real wands,” 4-year-old Liam Coulter whispered with assurance. He had traveled with his parents, Maj. Sean and Katie Coulter, from Hohenfels for the big event.
While the wands weren’t real, in a magical sense, the owls at the BookMark in Schinnen, Netherlands, certainly were.
“Harry Potter and owls go together,” said Patty Anderson, the Schinnen bookstore manager. “The kids were just ecstatic. The [trained] owls were literally flying inside the store.”
Unlike bookstores in places such as Wiesbaden and Heidelberg, Schinnen opted to open two hours early on Saturday, instead of going the midnight route.
But that didn’t stop copies of “Deathly Hallows” from, figuratively speaking, flying out the door. Anderson said Saturday afternoon that she had already sold more than half of the 400 books she was allotted.
In Heidelberg, that many hardbacks were sold between midnight and 3 a.m., according to Arthur Varjabedian, operations manager for the main exchange.
Chris Costella, the bookstore manager in Wiesbaden, said of the 800 copies he had, more than half had been sold by late Saturday afternoon.
As an aside, his boss, Tony Ventura, said that for the past week the books had been kept under lock and key in a store office, with a security camera running 24 hours a day to monitor the treasured text.
“It’s Harry Potter — and it’s the last one,” Varjabedian said in explaining the great Harry hullabaloo. But, he added, author J.K. Rowling “might change her mind, you know.”
That would be fine with 20-year-old Laurel Arismendi, who has grown up with the bespectacled boy. She’s read each book more than once, and says there are many lessons and insights for people, young and old, to glean.
“There’s so much value in them,” Arismendi said with tears in her eyes. “I’m going to miss Harry and his friends.”