Was there ever life before Harry? Depends on how you look at it: Harry Potter, you could argue, has always been here and always will be -- if you throw out the usual boring restrictions of real time, which can't possibly regulate happenings in the magical Hogwarts cosmos. But Harry's stateside publisher, Scholastic, Inc., would rather not imagine such a life. Its yet-to-be-released Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth (and thickest yet) volume in J.K. Rowling's celebrated children's-book series, is hitting stores at midnight. The tome is enjoying record advance sales, based on a first printing of a whopping 8.5 million. Magic? Nah, but at least booksellers can have a little fun with it, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a bookstore that isn't hosting an event the instant the book becomes available. The Tattered Cover Cherry Creek, 2955 East First Avenue, will be one of the first in town to host midnight Potter-release parties. Children's-events coordinator Brett Bertholph says the rumors about Phoenix have been flying for months, and he predicts that eager kids will start asking about the next installment the day after this one comes out. But for momentary appeasement, the TC's basement will be decked out tonight at 10 p.m. in Hogwarts finery, with dry ice smoking from the bookshelves, candy-filled cauldrons, a Quidditch broom to ride and more. Wear a costume, and bring your Muggle money for a copy; for details, call 303-322-7727. -- Susan Froyd
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Soccer Mom Nominees
Does Mom cart you and ten of your screaming friends to soccer games all over metro Denver on a daily basis? You can show your thanks by nominating her for the title of "America's Ultimate Soccer Mom" in the Got Milk? Ultimate Soccer Mom Search, at www.whymilk.com. The winner will receive a family trip to Walt Disney World and a new Chrysler minivan -- which should help the champion on her rounds. -- Julie Dunn
When Darius, a medieval dragon, is awakened in his cave by a bulldozer, he's overwhelmed by the pollution and sprawl of the 21st century -- so it's a good thing he finds a band of youngsters to explain it all to him. Darius the Dragon, the latest production by the Aurora Fox Theatre Company, opens at 2 p.m. today at Aurora Central High School, 11700 East 11th Avenue. Performances continue through July 3, and showtimes vary. Tickets are $6; call 303-361-2910 for info. -- Julie Dunn