Editor's note: Reporter Tyler Woods took on the challenge to find Waldo in downtown New Canaan. Below is his first person account.
I don't know how much time I spent looking for Waldo as a kid, but I can remember plenty of afternoons lying on my stomach on my couch scouring massive colorful pages in hopes that I would find him.
As light drained out of the sky, I might have found Waldo in a moat among hundreds of other figures on the grounds of a chaotic medieval castle. My mom might have come into the living room and turned on the lamp in the corner while I searched for him in the Casbah of Marrakesh or Fez or Timbuktu.
What if Waldo was hiding in real life, for instance, in 36 locations throughout the town you live in?
Well, wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what's happened in New Canaan.
Elm Street Books is hosting a "Find Waldo in New Canaan" event, which started Oct. 1 and ends Oct. 25, in which paper Waldo cutouts have been placed in many of the businesses downtown. Kids can pick up a Waldo passport from the bookstore, and whenever they spot him in a business, they'll receive a sticker. The young participants can bring back the stamped passports to the bookstore to claim prizes if they've received 10 or more stamps. Those who receive 20 or more stamps are put into a drawing for the grand prize: a six-volume deluxe set of Waldo books.
But not all participants are so young. A recent Friday afternoon found one 23-year-old reporter searching high and low for Waldo in downtown, and, true to the book, it wasn't so easy.
"You're getting warmer ... No, cold. OK, warm again. No, no, no, cold, cold!" Yoni Arias, a store manager at Family Britches at 39 Elm St., said, shaking his head and laughing.
He evidently had grown tired of watching me meander through the store, stopping here and there with a bewildered look on my face.
"Can kids find this?" I thought to myself. "Try to remember your old strategies, break the store up into sections and inspect each one, rather than trying to take in the whole scene."
But, as he always is, Waldo was hiding in front of my face at Family Britches (though I won't say where!)
"I just got 10 boys come in here," Arias said as he stamped my paper passport. "All different times and they go around and try to find Waldo with their passport in hand. Some say, `My dad shops here,' or maybe it's their first time. It's kind of a fun thing."
The event is part of a national celebration of Waldo's 25th birthday by publisher Candlewick Press. More than 265 independent book stores across the country are joining Elm Street Books in putting on the "Find Waldo" game.
The first "Where's Waldo" book was illustrated by Martin Handford, in 1987. He's a Brit, and the original "Where's Waldo" was called "Where's Wally," as it remains in England and other countries. There are now more than 58 million Waldo books in print worldwide in 18 languages. The "Find Waldo" game is meant not only to commemorate Waldo, but to be a boost for local business.
"Oh my gosh, yes," Vineyard Vines manager-in-training Lindsay Kremer replied when asked if the store's participation in the game was helping business. "The Waldo thing has done so well for us. Kids are occupied and parents are shopping. We're all having a really good time with it."
Connie Melvin, of Elm Street Books, said the store has given out more than 100 passports so far.
"We have gone through these like crazy," she said. "We've had several kids come in with 20 or more (stamps) and say I'm going to go get the 36."
At Mackenzies, the candy store and newsstand at 7 South Ave., more than 75 kids found Waldo, owner Jim Berry said.
"The Waldo thing appeals to the really young kids. It's been great," Berry said. "It's cute. No, it didn't generate any business, but maybe it could generate future business from people who hadn't come in before."
Mackenzies might be the most challenging site at which to find Waldo. The store is exploding with colors, toys, candy, balloons and dozens of other products. If Waldo is meant partly to teach patience and determination in children, Mackenzies is the prime location in real life.
After watching me stroll up and down the store, (open-mouthed, I'm sure) Berry offered some help.
"Can I give you a hint?" he asked.
"No, thanks! I'll find it," I responded.
And -- eventually -- I did.
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