Communities Celebrate Finale of Fifth Find Waldo Local

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Indie booksellers celebrating the fifth anniversary of Find Waldo Local throughout the month of July capped off the shop-local event with parties on July 30 and 31.

Co-sponsored by Candlewick Press and the American Booksellers Association, Find Waldo Local invited children to pick up event passports at any of 250 participating indie bookstores. The passports guided participants to neighboring businesses, where they hunted for the elusive Waldo to earn stamps toward fun prizes.

Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in Park Rapids, Minnesota, has celebrated Find Waldo Local all five years, said store manager Jen Wills Geraedts. “We’ve done it enough now that businesses come to us looking to do it every year. We don’t have too much trouble filling the passport with 25 businesses.”

As in previous years, many Find Waldo Local participants were families visiting the resort town throughout the month, said Geraedts. “It’s become one of their traditions. What I hear from parents over and over and over again is appreciation for giving them an opportunity to go into all the different stores. While their kids are busy looking for Waldo, they’re getting to do some shopping.”

For the grand prize, awarded at Beagle and Wolf’s wrap-up party on July 30, businesses donated family-friendly items, such as gift certificates. In lieu of contributing a prize for the basket, the local newspaper provided generous coverage for Find Waldo Local festivities, added Geraedts.

Find Waldo Local was once again a success for Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester, Virginia, said owner Christine Patrick, who noted that 48 businesses participated and over a 1,000 passports were distributed.

Part of a pedestrian mall in the historic downtown, Winchester Book Gallery joined with a coffee shop, a knitting store, a wig shop, two different toy stores, a hotel, a shoe store, an ice cream shop, and a high-end furniture store, among other businesses, that invited customers in to hunt for Waldo.

For the event’s wrap-up party, “a collage of people” with completed passports, 61 participants in all, were entered into drawings for a dozen goodie bags packed in striped totes holding a variety of prizes, said Patrick. The store also hosted coloring stations and word games and offered snacks and cookies.

“Everybody had so much fun, every age, every kind of person. They were all sharing stories of their favorite, the hardest, the silliest Waldo to find,” she said, adding that it’s also good the scavenger hunt is a whole month, “so people don’t feel like they have to rush through it.”

This was the third celebration of Find Waldo Local for The Library Shop in San Diego, California, which tried a new approach this year: the bookstore, located in a nine-floor public library, one of the largest in the U.S., kept the hunt for Waldo within the library itself.

“In the past, we worked with a lot of bars and dry cleaners and the pet groomer, but there’s not a lot of local businesses in the area,” said store manager Scott Ehrig-Burgess. “This year we changed it up and we had a scavenger hunt just in the library.”

Waldo was hidden on each floor of the library, and each floor participated in a different way. The wrap-up pizza party featured a live Waldo scavenger hunt, and the giveaways from Candlewick were a hit, said Ehrig-Burgess.

In all, about 80 people participated in the event, more than in previous years. “We had much higher traffic,” said Ehrig-Burgess. “The kids were a lot more involved and the parents were more likely to participate. It worked out great for us.”

The Vero Beach Book Center was the host bookstore in Vero Beach, Florida, for the 24 other businesses in the area taking part in Find Waldo Local. “A lot of them saw an increase in sales as well as customers,” said bookseller and book buyer Tiffanie McCurdy. Interest was boosted as many of the businesses shared snapshots on social media of a live Waldo visiting their shops.

For the July 30 wrap-up party, one of the businesses, Sweet Creations Vero Beach, made cookies, and many of the others donated goodies for a grand prize drawing.

“This year was different than last year,” said McCurdy, who saw participation soar. “We had more people come to the celebration party than last year, and we seem to have given out more passports faster this year. Within the first week of July, we had given out more than 100 passports. We just kept printing more.”

“Waldo is always a draw for people in the slow summer months,” she added. “It gives them something to do with their kids that’s low cost, and it’s always good community outreach, because you do gain new customers and new business while promoting the independent message.”