Local businesses host “Where’s Waldo?” event for young residents


Martha Lewand/The Daily Northwestern

A “Where’s Waldo?” display at Bookends & Beginnings. If residents find 20 or more Waldos, they can attend a party hosted by the bookstore.

Martha Lewand, Reporter

Two children walk into the Alley Gallery, charts in hand, eager to find the four-inch tall “Where’s Waldo?” figure. One boy peeks behind paintings stacked against the wall as his sibling and mom continue to scan the gallery for the beloved children’s book character.

Bookends & Beginnings is sponsoring the fifth annual “Where’s Waldo?” scavenger hunt in downtown Evanston throughout July.

Children must find a hidden Waldo within 21 local businesses. A child who finds 10 figures wins a “Where’s Waldo?” pin and a dollar off any book from the franchise. A child who finds all 21 figures is invited to a grand prize party on August 3. Participating businesses have donated prizes to the party, ranging from books and toys to ice cream certificates.

Nina Barrett, the owner and founder of the bookstore, learned about the competition through a book publisher about five years ago and has been sponsoring the scavenger hunt every year since.

“It isn’t just a way for an independent bookstore to promote itself or to promote Waldo,” Barrett said. “But because it engages 20, up to 30, small businesses in your town. It’s a really good way to highlight for people the difference between an independent business and other kinds of businesses.”

Barrett said the scavenger hunt reinforces the concept of supporting local businesses, especially important in a city like Evanston where small shops compete with major corporations and chains.

“If you can choose to spend your dollars locally, then you’re voting to support a really strong, vibrant local community,” Barrett said.

Directly across from Bookends & Beginnings is Alley Gallery, a small custom framing shop. It has participated in the “Where’s Waldo” competition for the past few years. Co-owner Darren Oberto will dress up as Waldo for the grand prize party.

“It helps the small businesses bring in new clientele,” he said. “It gives children a little something extra to do in the summertime because they might be looking for activities. It will get kids out from in front of the television and gets them to actually do something and looking at things.”

Barrett said a “Where’s Waldo?” book does exactly that.

“If you think about just what is the activity of looking at a Waldo book, the kids stare at (the book) forever because they are finding all of the little details and looking for Waldo among all the little details,” Barrett said. “So it’s not a word-reading experience, but it’s a positive book-engagement experience.

“Getting kids to like the experience of reading from a very early age, you’re creating somebody who’s going to be a reader for life.”

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Twitter: @marthalewand