What might be called the world's biggest sleepover took place late Friday and early Saturday — and all anyone wanted to do was read a book.
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was finally released to the Potter-crazed public, and pages could be heard a turnin' from here to Great Britain.
It was a night not soon to be forgotten, as fans around the world lined up at bookstores waiting on one thing — Father Time. And when the clock finally struck 12, Muggles large and Muggles small plopped down $25.95 apiece and made a beeline to their favorite reading spot.
Salt Lake City's Abigail Adams, 15, was one of them.
"I've got a liter of Dr. Pepper sitting at home," she said while anxiously waiting at The Children's Hour bookstore. "I'm staying up all night. I hope I can read 100 pages an hour and finish the book by morning."
Few things were known about author J.K. Rowling's latest book in the months leading up to its release, as stores signed affidavits promising not to sell it prematurely. One thing was expected, however — that "Harry Potter IV" would shatter any and all sales records.
So far, it has done just that.
Amazon.com reported that nearly 400,000 people ordered the book online by Saturday morning — beating the release of John Grisham's novel "The Brethren" by nearly seven times. New York-based Barnes & Noble said it expects to break records for first-day and first-week sales, having pre-sold nearly 360,000 books by Friday. A total of 3.8 million first-run copies were printed for the United States by kiddie publisher Scholastic Inc.
Locally, it was no different than the rest of the world. Crowds of fans gathered at bookstores, each hoping to be one of the first to get a copy.
The Children's Hour magically changed to "The Potter Hour" Friday night. Cars made their way up and down 900 South in front of the store — horns stuck on automatic — as occupants yelled out the windows, "We love Harry Potter!"
And hundreds of kids and parents waited impatiently for the midnight hour to strike, so they could get the magical book and read it before anyone else does.
The bright lights of TV cameras made patrons' faces glow like pumpkins on Halloween. Glitter and confetti were everywhere — on the crowd, on the ground and floating through the warm summer air.
It was New Year's Eve, Christmas and everyone's birthday rolled into one.
Patrons short and tall were happily taking in the hysteria, eating messenger owl cookies and doughnut holes, or "snichballs" (at Harry's academy, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it's a ball used in the supernatural game of Quidditch), while drinking cold applebutter beer (apple juice to us non-wizard Muggles).
On a makeshift stage, magician Paul Brewer did his best to keep kids and parents at bay until the sluggish clock hit 12. "Has anyone read all three books?" he asked. Hands shot up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. "Me, me, me," the kids screamed.
Word began to circulate that Potter himself would deliver the books, and kids kept peering at their watches, as though they were ticking time bombs.
In the mass of confusion, Diane Etherington, owner of The Children's Hour, was doing her best to direct traffic. Etherington's plan was to have a relaxed and controlled event with 100 or so guests, most of whom had already pre-ordered the book. But droves of Potter fans — probably seeing the party on the 10 o' clock news — showed up out of nowhere, kids and parents dressed like characters from the book, wanting to make magic wands and paint lightning bolts on their foreheads like the rest of the group.
Etherington didn't have the supplies of a Wal-Mart, but she did her best to keep everyone happy by offering unexpected guests a snichball or two.
"I feel so bad," she said. "We only had 75 people pre-order the book from us, but so many people have just shown up out of the blue. We only have enough supplies for people already on the list."
The party at The Children's Hour started at 10 p.m. Friday and lasted until 12:45 a.m. Saturday.
"It's a fun thing to be out here tonight," said Julia Lapine of Salt Lake City, mother of 7-year-old Thomas, who was dressed like Norbert the dragon. "It really is magical — just like the books."
"I think it's great to see kids get so into a book as opposed to Nintendo games," said Dave Taggert, 41, of Salt Lake City, dressed as Professor Hagrid for the evening. "It's just phenomenal."
Molly Pace, 7, of Salt Lake City, dressed as Jenny Weasley — red hair, freckles and all — to look like the girl who's infatuated with Potter in the book. "He's so adorable," she said, playing the part to a T. "I've got a huge crush on Harry Potter."
Join the rest of the world, Molly.
Finally, at 12:02 a.m. — just as screams of excitement were being overtaken by yawns — a streaming yellow car came whizzing up to the store. A large peculiar boy with thick glasses and a cape sat atop the car, sparklers attached to his hands.
"Look, everyone!" yelled Brewer the Magician. "Here comes Harry!"
Before the car could stop, it was overtaken by a steady stream of children and parents. The time had finally come.
Harry passed out copies of the 734-page book ("You could kill someone with that thing," someone said) and posed for pictures before being beckoned back to Hogwarts.
"This is something these kids will remember forever," Etherington said. "What a wonderful experience. This is what makes selling books fun. Just look at all these little kids walk away with their big books."