Take an everyday activity, place it in an unusual time frame, and it suddenly becomes An Event.
When I think back on my childhood, most of the school days seem to blend together. But what still stands out in my mind are the out-of-season, out-of-sequence times: walking into the dark school at night to attend an evening concert or taking our parents to the annual "Open House" to see our classrooms and meet our teachers even though it was way past our bedtime. I remember going to school to get our sugar-cube polio vaccines on a SUNDAY MORNING and the year the teachers went on strike and summer vacation lasted through September and most of October. (I also remember how we had to make up that time by attending school all through the following June and July -- the wide-open windows letting in bees and hornets and the blaring music of passing ice cream trucks, but not a lick of cool air.)
I suspect that many of today's kids will someday have similar memories of attending Harry Potter book release parties -- those rare nights when a simple visit to the bookstore became An Event. I can just imagine the excitement of staying up late on a Friday night...traveling by car down near-empty streets at a time when you're normally long asleep...browsing the shelves while waiting for the boxes of books to be opened at the stroke of midnight...and then of course riding home with the treasured book in your hands, perhaps holding it up to the window and trying to read by streetlight and stoplight.
I've known people who were not even fans of the Potter books, yet attended all the release parties just because they enjoyed being around other enthusiastic "book people" and loved the idea of buying-books-by-moonlight.
Many of us thought these late night parties would end with the publication of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, not realizing that Stephenie Meyer's vampire "Twilight Saga" would soon seize the collective imagination of young readers. The final book in that series, BREAKING DAWN, doesn't have the same pervasive and deafening level of "buzz" that HP had, nor are its expected numbers nearly as big (BREAKING DAWN has announced a first printing of 3.2 million, versus 12 million for DEATHLY HALLOWS) but that's still more than enough interest to keep the bookstores open late again this Friday night, August 1.
I read the first book in Meyer's series, TWILIGHT, in 2005, but didn't read 2006's NEW MOON or 2007's ECLIPSE. Nor do I plan to get a copy of BREAKING DAWN this Friday night/Saturday morning. Yet wild horses couldn't keep me from the release party. My favorite bookstore is hosting a "Midnight Madness Monster Party" complete with costumes, an appearance by a local horror-movie TV host, djs in the store, and a band playing outside on the sidewalk. Best of all, nearly every book in the entire store will be 25% off!
Although I visit this store nearly every Friday on the way home from work, this week I'm planning to go much later in the evening just to experience the excitement, hang around other midnight shoppers, and watch families show up for an occasion when a simple visit to the bookstore becomes an adventure...An Event...and, ultimately, a memory.