James Joyce fans have Bloomsday in June; Dr. Seuss aficionados celebrate the author's birthday every March. Harry Potter buffs, who mark their hero's birthday July 31, have two reasons to party this year.
July 15 is the red-letter day when parties around the world will count down the hours to the midnight release of J.K. Rowling's latest adventure.
So widespread is the interest in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that a Web site, http://www.potterparties.com, has been set up to help readers find the party nearest them or plan their own.
"For a Harry Potter fan, this is such a momentous event," said Melissa Anelli, reporter for the Staten Island Advance by day, managing editor of leading fan site http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org - and spin-off site potterparties.com - by night. Half-Blood Prince is the sixth of a planned seven volumes about teen wizard Harry Potter's coming of age and fight against evil.
"There's the sense that fans are part of something that will be part of the culture for all time," Anelli said. "People want to make sure they're in that moment. . . . People want to celebrate. There's nothing like being with other fans who get it."
"We were frankly surprised at the number who turned out" for the release of Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in June 2003, said Colleen McLaughlin, community-affairs manager for the Salt Lake City Library System. She estimated 3,000 or 4,000 people attended that party and said next month's celebration will be even bigger. Because it won't coincide with the Utah Arts Festival this year, it can include outdoor as well as indoor activities, including Real Salt Lake soccer players playing an earthbound version of Quidditch, a star party on the library's roof, an array of Hogwarts classes and Hermione's House Elf Food Drive (partygoers who bring donations for Crossroads Urban Center will receive an Order of the Phoenix badge).
Potterparties.com, which went online last month, already lists more than 500 parties in the United States and two dozen other nations (including at least 12 in Utah). Part of its mission is to put independent bookstores and libraries on even footing with the well-publicized chains, but potterparties.com won't list events that aren't in a public location. "At the moment, we don't have the manpower to ensure they're all legitimate parties and not a potentially dangerous situation," Anelli said. But do-it-yourselfers will find dozens of tips.
For example, instead of playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, revelers can re-enact a memorable scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by pinning a pig tail on Dudley Dursley. An old baby-shower standby, in which guests try to recall which items were on a tray, can be Potterized as "Lockhart's Memory." Or you and your friends can while away the hours making wands, potions or Golden Snitches.
Food is even easier to Potterize. Taquitos become scrolls, buffalo wings can be bat or dragon wings and stuffed mushrooms can be labeled "Snape's stuffed toadstools."
"A lot of little things can be turned into Potteresque things," Anelli said. "Pretzels can be wands; a lot of everyday things can be turned around."
"Stay as authentic to the story as you can and have fun," said Julie Howell, the Utah Symphony's marketing manager, who helped plan plenty of Potter parties while working at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City.
Anelli, 25, still gets "a lot of funny looks" when people find out she runs a Harry Potter fan site, but reckons anyone who doesn't bother trying to understand the cross-generational phenomenon "isn't a person I'd want to be spending my time with anyway." Besides, Anelli is headed for the mother of all Harry Potter parties: She's one of two fan-site editors Rowling personally invited to interview her in her Edinburgh, Scotland, home on the day the book is released.
Ron's Worst Dessert
Food has a prominent place in the Harry Potter world, from traditional British treats such as treacle tart and trifle to wizarding specialties such as jelly slugs and cauldron cakes. Ron's Worst Dessert plays on Harry's best friend's deathly fear of spiders.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon butter
24 large marshmallows
1 6-ounce package chow mein noodles
1 12-ounce package mini candy-coated chocolate pieces
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and butter. Microwave until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth. Pour chocolate into a sealable plastic bag and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Stick four chow mein noodles into each side of marshmallow for legs, and arrange on wax paper.
Using scissors, cut one corner off the bag of melted chocolate. Drizzle over the marshmallow spiders. Attach two candies to each marshmallow for eyes. Chill until chocolate hardens.
Trivia contests are always popular at Harry Potter parties, as are crafts such as wand- and potion-making. It's also easy to adapt well-known games - for example, the classic "telephone" can become "Rita Skeeter Rumors." Have your guests sit in a circle. The first person puts on a pair of wacky sunglasses and starts a "rumor" by whispering a phrase from the books to the next person in line, who passes it on to the next person, and so on, until it comes back to the first person, who then repeats it aloud.
on the cheap
Witch and wizard costumes are available at most costume shops, but creativity can compensate for a limited budget. Put mismatched items of clothing together and be a wizard trying to pass as a muggle (non-magic person, for the uninitiated). Or go as one of Hogwarts' moving paintings by walking around holding a picture frame in front of yourself.
Set the scene creatively
Standard Halloween decorations adapt easily for a Harry Potter celebration, or you could put up signs identifying areas or rooms as Hogwarts classrooms or Diagon Alley shops. A potterparties.com contributor suggests finding a photo of actor Gary Oldman, who plays Sirius Black in the Potter films, and making a life-size print of his head. Insert it behind the flames in an electric fireplace and voilà, you've re-enacted a key scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Party with Potter
Parties heralding the publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be plentiful in Utah. Nearly all will be on July 15, with activities culminating in
the book's midnight release. Here is a sampling.
l Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, July 15, 6 p.m. Earthbound Quidditch matches, star party, living paintings, wizard shops, crafts, Hogwarts classes, magical creatures, wizard chess, movie screenings, a costume contest and more. Preorder the book from Sam Weller's (801-328-2586 or 800-333-SAMW) or Night Flight Comics (801-532-1188) and pick it up at midnight. Free admission, but there will be a food drive.
l The Children's Hour, 914 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, July 15, 10 p.m. Games, prizes, treats. Admission $3.
l The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, July 15, 10 p.m. Fortunes, face painting, henna tattoos, readings, film, wizard hats and wands, treats. Free admission.
l The Children's Museum of Utah, 840 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City, July 15 and 16, 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Morning and afternoon sessions of "The Summer School of Wizardry" include arts and crafts, face painting, costume contest, Hogwarts classes, magic and more. Registration $7.50; deadline is July 14; call 801-328-3383.
l Holladay Branch Library, 2150 E. Murray-Holladay Road, Salt Lake City, July 15, 2-3 p.m. Readings, activities, games. Free admission.
l Borders stores, various locations, July 15, 9 p.m. Crafts, trivia, magical science, treats and more. Free admission.
l Barnes & Noble, 1102 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, July 15, 7 p.m. Crafts, contests, owls and more. Free admission.
l Brigham Young University Bookstore, Provo, July 15, 11 p.m. Crafts, contests, games and more. Free admission.
l Utah State University Bookstore, Logan, July 15, 10:30 p.m. Candy, costume contest, face painting, free food and drink, film screening, games and more. Free admission.
l Hastings, 50 E. 400 North, Logan, July 15, 8 p.m. Crafts, readings, contests, magic, classes, trivia and more. Free admission.
l Thanksgiving Point, Lehi, July 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Food, magic and more. Admission $30; reservations by July 6; call 1-888-672-6040.
l Herriman Branch Library, 13011 S. Pioneer St. (6000 West), Herriman, July 19, 7-8 p.m. Readings, magic. Free admission, but reservations required by July 18; call 801-943-4636.
l Columbus Branch Library, 2530 S. 500 East, South Salt Lake, July 21, 7-8 p.m. Live owls. Free admission.
l Hunter Branch Library, 4740 W. 4100 South, West Valley City, July 27, 7-8 p.m. Owls and other activities. Free admission.