Houston Harry Potter

Houston Harry Potter meetup at the Hobbit May 2005

Friday evening 20 June 2003 saw the eve of the release of the novel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it saw me at a book release party held in the Barnes & Noble across the street from the Houston Galleria. And what a boring party it was! — nothing more than a bunch of mundanely-dressed bored adults standing in a long line for three hours and a couple of adults in costumes who were more-Potter-dressed than the few kids there. What fun!

The book turned out to be the culmination of this boredom (hindsight being everything in the light of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Phoenix is now much more interesting), and when Half-Blood Prince was about to be released in July 2005, I was determined to find a better party than what I encountered at the Galleria. And I found it.

In spades.

The oracle at Google showed me a Half-Blood Prince book-release party for a “Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group”, one of a gazillion “meetup” groups that may be had via meetup.com, an internet site that lets one set up a “meetup” group complete with message board, the ability to upload files, the ability to set up an online events calendar, and more, the ultimate aim being to organize in-person get-togethers for everything from dogs to Star Trek and politics. There are, at my last count, seventy-nine Harry Potter Meetups around the world, of which Houston’s was the seventy-ninth “Harry Potter Meetup” group to be organized.

The book release party was held at the Borders at Kirby @ West Alabama in Houston. Of course, it began on the evening of 15 July 2005, and our meetup began at the Hobbit Cafe in Houston at about 6:00pm. I got there, and from the get-go, I liked everyone in the Meetup: instead of a horde of Potter-obsessed teens and children, I had run into a bunch of intelligent and articulate adults who love the books. All was right with the universe.

At 8:00pm or thereabouts, we got over to the Border’s, and the party that ensued was the complete opposite from the Galleria fizzle-out: Many people in costume (kids and adults) and an incredible energy. There were about a hundred-and-fifty people or so, and I ran into a few friends not involved with the meetup with whom I visited for long enough for my new meetup friends to wonder to where I’d wondered off!

A good part of our time was spent reading to each other our favorite scenes from the first five Potter books. I had brought copies of all the books along (I had not gotten my British versions yet), and I even improvised bad melodies on the Sorting Hat songs. The bookstore held a costume contest, and I imagine it was not easy for the judges to decide between the many worthy entries, both kid and adult.

And at long last, the moment arrived. This particular Borders location has two storeys, the second floor forming a balcony of sorts, circling the ground floor, and allowing me to clearly see a ground-level door at the back of the store being opened and the employees rolling out the green-covered books (hardbacks, both regular and deluxe) on rack after rack after rack to a crowd of boisterous, cheering Potterheads and a rousing standing ovation.

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We each left the Borders at about 12:45am, and I imagine the store moved about three-hundred copies that night. The photo above is the meetup group in May 2005 at the Hobbit Cafe.

The Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group may be had via www.houstonharrypotter.com


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