15 years ago today, the fourth book in the Harry Potter series was released around the world.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s release was significant because it was the first time that a book in the series would hit store shelves in the United States and United Kingdom on the same day. It was the last book to be released before film adaptations of the series started hitting theaters, and the first book to truly reveal the trajectory of Rowling’s success.

For me and many others, it was also the first of four midnight book releases we would attend to celebrate the latest Harry Potter. Whereas I received my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban in the mail on release day (I still remember the special box Amazon shipped it in), it was for Goblet of Fire when the fandom really started heating up.

It was the evening of July 7, 2000, and I was in Ocean City, NJ on a family beach trip. At 11 years old, the idea of staying up until midnight and ~going out~ was a big deal. The local bookstore on the boardwalk, a 2.5-mile strip of stores facing the beach, was only a short walk from the hotel my family and I were staying at.

We ventured north on the nearly empty Ocean City boardwalk around 11 p.m. with the sounds of the ocean churning to our right. We arrived at the bookstore to find a small line of fellow Harry Potter fans waiting for the clock to strike midnight. It wasn’t too big a surprise that fans were lined up for Goblet of Fire despite it being the first midnight release — the boardwalk gets a lot of foot traffic during the summer and everyone was eager to get their hands on the new Harry Potter as quickly as possible. We all had seen the signs in the days before July 8 about the release of the book at 12:01 a.m., and all fans were excited at the idea of picking up a book the moment it would be officially available. It would be perfect beach reading!

Atlantic Books quickly started selling copies at midnight (my fuzzy recollection recalls the store deciding to sell the book a minute or two early to get the process started). My parents wisely suggested that I ask for one of the boxes that the copies of Goblet of Fire were shipped in, and luckily the store was happy to oblige. These weren’t just any old brown boxes! These were white and stamped with the Harry Potter logo as well as a release warning. I still have the box (as well as boxes for Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince) to this day:

Old school #HarryPotter #secrets #donotopen

A photo posted by andrewsims (@andrewsims) on

And now, some pictures from a video my dad shot the night of the release!

Here I am walking on the boardwalk after getting the book around 12:30 a.m. In this photo I’m with my mom and my too-cool-for-Harry-Potter cousin:

goblet-of-fire-boardwalk

Yay I got it!

goblet-of-fire-yay

Can’t resist a peek…

goblet-of-fire-peek

Yay!!

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I started reading the book the next morning.

It’s crazy to think that this release was 15 years ago (and I was so damn young). I grew a lot between my first midnight release in my family beach town and my last midnight release seven years later in London, England. So too did the midnight release parties with each passing book. Imagine what a midnight release for a hypothetical Harry Potter 8 would be like today…

Your turn: Where were you for the ‘Goblet of Fire’ release?

Share your story in the comments below as we celebrate 15 years since the book’s publication! Bonus points if you share pictures.

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