Harry hysteria hits home

Hundreds gathered outside Bethany and Fenwick bookstores as Friday turned into Saturday last week to get their hands on the seventh and final chapter in the Harry Potter saga, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

Standing, and sometimes sitting, in lines that wrapped around both sides of Bethany Beach Books, locals and visitors erupted in cheer when the doors opened at midnight. Sisters Nicole and Alyssa Politi, wearing hats more befitting of wizards, were on vacation in Bethany for the unveiling of the final Harry Potter book and said they would not miss the event.

“We love Harry Potter,” Nicole said, “and Daniel Radcliffe, because he is such a babe”

“It’s different,” Alyssa said of the epic tale. “It’s magical.”

Bethany Beach Books had ordered more than 700 copies of the book, rightly expecting hundreds to descend on the bookstore late Friday night. Atlantic Books, where snacks and face-painting were part of the midnight Harry Potter celebration, had ordered 550 books and were holding nearly 300 on reserve. Those leaving a marathon Bethany Beach Town Council meeting at nearly 11 p.m. on Friday night unexpectedly mingled with those lining up for their latest taste of Harry Potter.

Reed and Taylor Milbrath, standing with their father and with cousin Travis Stigall, who identified himself as a “rabid fan” of Harry Potter, stayed up late last week to buy a book for their mother, whose birthday was July 20. They had planned to wake her up when they returned to their beach house that night.

“That’s the only thing she wanted for her birthday, was this book,” Taylor Milbrath said. The Milbraths and Stigall represented the crowd Saturday night, jumping around and laughing in a giddy celebration of the release. After finishing the sixth book while standing in line to purchase the seventh at Atlantic Books in Fenwick, Courtney Auburn, an 18-year-old Fenwick Island lifeguard, pegged herself “obsessed with Harry Potter.”

She had stood in line for nearly an hour to pick up her reserved copy of “Deathly Hallows,” likely a short line compared to ones some stood in across the nation. In the first 24 hours, eager fans snapped up 8.3 million copies of the book, according to Scholastic Inc., with numbers cited on Forbes.com. According to Forbes, a first printing of 12 million copies was released Saturday.

Even eclipsing previous Potter books, “Deathly Hallows” was expected to break sales records and was thought by many to be the most rabidly-awaited novel ever. According to the numbers in Forbes, an average of 300,000 copies of the book were sold each minute in the first 24 hours. And fans did not waste much time. Used, already-read copies of the seventh book are already for sale on Amazon.com and eBay.

Julia Shedlin, a Bethesda, Md., resident who, like many others, was spending a vacation night waiting in line at an area bookstore, marked the end of the line about 12:45 a.m. at Atlantic Books in Fenwick. Nervous that books would sell out before she could reach the counter, Shedlin said she was still happy just to be part of the hysteria.

“I was very excited to see how it ended,” she said. “I like being a part of the mania.”