At 11 p.m. Friday, more than 500 Juneau residents, many wearing robes and waving wands, passed through black curtains to enter the magic world of Harry Potter.
A barred owl stared at people with her huge eyes from a corner of the Hearthside Books at the Nugget Mall.
Magician Jeff Brown made poodles and hats out of colorful balloons. People ate snack mix such as Hagrid's Creature Feed and sipped the sleeping portion, a red punch with a black spider floating on the surface.
Children and adults, in their black robes and witches' hats, went to the bookstore to wait for the midnight launch of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."
Although the book is the sixth of the series, fans' appetite for Harry Potter hasn't waned.
More than 10 million copies of the latest book were printed, the publisher said.
Security measures with names such as "Operation Hedwig" (in honor of Potter's owl) guarded the books at stores all over the world. In the United States alone, more than 5,000 events celebrated the book's release.
In Juneau, Deb Reifenstein, co-owner of Hearthside Books, said this was the third time the bookstore held a Harry Potter party, and it had the most participants ever. The bookstore has never held a launching party for any other book, she said.
Reifenstein ordered 1,000 copies to meet the demand.
The charm of J.K Rowling's books perhaps lies in its ingredients.
"They have adventure, magic, good guys and bad guys. And the good guys always win at the end," said Marie Petersen, 10.
Kevin Diamond, 17, called the series an "attention-getter."
"It keeps you at the edge of your seat," said Diamond in a Dark Lord Voldemort black robe. "You want to know more about it."
Patricia Adams, 13, said the books' descriptions are so vivid that she felt as if she were actually there.
Magic knows no age. While many adults at the party accompanied their children, some came to get a copy for themselves.
Bill Schlueter, a retired Coast Guardsman, showed some uneasiness among the jittery children. The 56-year-old started reading the series at his sister's recommendation. He asked his brother, David, to go to the event with him.
"Age doesn't make any difference. A lot of people older than us read it, too," Schlueter said. "They are just good stories."
Harry Potter fans, including adults, showed their creativity in their costumes. Diane Antaya, 39, recycled her college graduation robe as a witch's cloak.
Naomi Moritz, 9, looked like a small version of Harry Potter going to school.
Moritz, in her oversized black-framed glasses and black cloak, pushed a beat-up briefcase on a tote she found in her attic, on top of which was a stuffed owl in a cat carrier, her mother's old chemistry textbook (representing the Monster Book of Monsters) and, of course, a broom.
Naomi said she has read the books 5 million times, a magical feat itself, and watched the movies 50 times.
"I like the mystery," Naomi said.
As midnight approached, the crowd began counting down. "Three. Two. One. Yea!," the participants roared and swamped the counter to get a copy. The first person who got the book raised it as if it were a prize.
"This is going to be a quiet summer for the parents," observed book buyer Christopher Clark, looking at the commotion.
I-Chun Che can be reached at email@example.com.
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