Local fans just wild about ‘Harry Potter’

Potter fans line up hours, even days, before premiere of final film as they bid boy wizard adieu

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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It was a magical day for Muggles as hundreds of die-hard Harry Potter fans — wands in hand, costumes in tow — lined up to catch the premiere of the fantastical series’ final film.

Vancouver resident Annalise MacGregor, 20, perfected her recipe for a nonalcoholic butterbeer, a version of the wizarding world’s drink of choice. Then, on Tuesday night, along with a group of her friends, she set up a tent outside Regal Cinema Cascade Stadium in Fisher’s Landing to await Thursday’s midnight showing of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

They whittled wands and prepared to dress up like favorite characters. A dark-haired member of the group was planning to die his hair red to match that of Potter’s best friend, Ron Weasley.

MacGregor — along with the hundreds of other mostly 15- to 25-year-olds lined up 10 hours before the first film cell would flicker across the screen — readily admitted she was hardcore.

But they’re not alone: Ticketing site fandango.com showed metro-area midnight shows were sold out by Thursday evening. Regal Cascade Stadium’s eight midnight screenings were also full; tickets for a 3 a.m. show remained available.

And there’s a reason. To this generation, the seven-book and eight-movie series is more than a pop-culture phenomenon: Harry Potter is someone they’ve grown up with. All had an anecdote of reading the books in first grade, or catching the fever at 5 years old.

“Almost our whole lives have built up to this point,” said Erica Ryan, 21, of Camas, who had been waiting with her two younger brothers and a friend for more than 30 hours. “Ten years of our lives have been spent reading the books and watching these movies.”

A few spots ahead in line, Robert Head, 17, of Vancouver, wore the round glasses favored by the boy wizard with the lightning scar. For months, he’s had a daily countdown on his Facebook page leading to the premiere. It was down to hours. But tomorrow’s status update was uncertain, he said.

“It’s like, what do we have left? It’s so sad, it’s so bittersweet,” he said, as his friend, Michelle Pitel, 19, chimed in, “just like butterbeer!”

Author J.K. Rowling published the last Harry Potter book in 2007, 10 years after she first put out “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” She has said she has no plans to reopen any more chapters in the lives of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Producers split the final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” into two parts, playing up the struggle between Harry and his mortal nemesis, He Who Must Not Be Named (OK, we’ll do it), Voldemort.

For 19-year-old Matt Leamer, the books helped bring his family together. Leamer held the distinction of being the very first person in line, and had been at Regal since 3 p.m. Tuesday. He bought tickets in June, and 26 of his friends joined him at the front of the line. The Washougal teen said the tent was full last night, so he slept on the concrete sidewalk.

Leamer, his twin brother, Chris, and his father didn’t have much common ground — until they found it in Harry Potter. They’ve been to all the movies since. His dad couldn’t make Thursday’s movie because of work, but Leamer said he’s still excited to “see Voldemort get his butt whooped.”

“It’s kind of upsetting that it’s ending,” he said. “But we’re still friends because of it, so that’s OK.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.