Throw a rock in the air this weekend and chances are you'll find a party in honor of the July 16 release of the sixth Harry Potter installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But you'll find very few with their own troupe of fire-dancers as entertainment, old-school cool in the form of snow cone refreshments, and a chance to buy the new H.P. book itself at 12:01 a.m., long before wanna-be Harry-philes make it to the book racks the next day. Beat that, pretender parties, or simply join in the fun at the Harry Potter Fire and Ice Celebration at 10:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. In addition to the combo of fire-dancers and snow cones, Changing Hands' next-door neighbor, Wildflower Bread Company, will be up late serving food and drinks. Best of all, $6 from every book sold after midnight will be donated to local charities. Admission is free. See www.changinghands.com or call 480-730-0205. -- Craig Wallach
Three strange brews featured
We'd love to take a road trip in pursuit of the greatest beers America offers -- to Oregon, Texas, and across the Gulf Coast to Mississippi. But then there's that whole "drinking and driving" debacle we've chosen to avoid. Lucky for us, Scottsdale's Village Tavern -- 8787 North Scottsdale Road -- brings the best of those three states "straight from the tap" to our lips on Thursday, July 14, keeping us out of the poky. Enjoy a complimentary tasting of Oregon's Pintail Copper Ale, a "black and tan"-style Mississippi Mud, and Texas' Bavarian-style Shiner Hefeweizen from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. And then get a cab for the ride home. Call 480-951-6445. -- Joe Watson
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Share spirits on Bastille Day
Ah, the French: so quaint, yet feisty. Everything about them demonstrates the schizophrenia we love so much. From their angelic Amlie and delicate cuisine to their blood-spattered revolutions, at least those elitists are dynamic. As they prepare to celebrate everything French with their national holiday, Bastille Day, we too can partake Thursday, July 14, at Sportsman's Fine Wines & Spirits, 3205 East Camelback. It'll be just like the Fourth of July, except without the fireworks and hot dogs and with more smelly cheeses. Head down and drink a toast to our European friends from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The bar will treat you to a tasting of five French wines paired with traditional French cuisine. Plus, Sportsman's offers its largest sale of the year all day. Admission costs $10. Visit www.sportsmans4wine.com or call 602-955-9463. -- Evan Wyloge