He started out hiding in book illustrations in 1987, and today, he also exists in online games and has his very own iPhone app. Waldo — a traveler with circular eyeglasses, a pompom hat and a red-and-white striped shirt — has long challenged people to find him in scenes around the world. He even made it to outer space a time or two. And now, Waldo’s in Bangor.
In celebration of Waldo’s 25 birthday, downtown Bangor businesses and organizations have collaborated to host a “Where’s Waldo?” scavenger hunt throughout July.
“We loved these [‘Where’s Waldo?’ books] when we were little,” said Brody Davison, 14, as he searched for Waldo in The Briar Patch bookstore, where the hunt begins. “Now it’s fun because it’s not 2-D, it’s a 3-D search.”
Brody and his brother, Cameron Davison, 15, spent an afternoon searching for 6-inch Waldo stand-ups in businesses throughout downtown Bangor, while their mother, Lorraine Davison, took the opportunity to shop.
The fun family activity supports the “shop local” philosophy by guiding people (and in many cases, introducing people) to local businesses. The Davisons live in Indianapolis and summer in Stockton Springs, and the Waldo hunt was their first time exploring downtown Bangor.
“We’ve heard from One Lupine [Fiber Arts], and they said that they’ve had a lot of people come in who had never been there before,” said Gibran Graham, who organized the monthlong activity and is a part-time employee at The Briar Patch.
Twenty businesses and organizations located in downtown Bangor are in possession of a 6-inch standup Waldo, and they have hidden him wherever they want.
• Pick up a “Find Waldo in Bangor!” search list with the names of all the search locations at The Briar Patch, 27 Central St. There is no charge to participate.
• Make sure to find the Waldo hidden in The Briar Patch, then hit the town to hunt in the other 19 locations.
• At each location, employees will award successful hunters with a card.
• Collect cards in 16 or more locations and turn them in at The Briar Patch by July 30 to win a Waldo button and enter for other, larger prizes. The drawing will take place at a Waldo party at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, at The Briar Patch. The grand prize is a complete six-volume set of Waldo books. People who prefer a shorter hunt can collect the cards from 8 of the locations and receive a Waldo button, but they will not be placed into the drawing.
“Where’s Waldo?” is the creation of Martin Handford, whose lively drawings of crowd scenes quickly gained popularity in the late 80s. Today, there are more than 55 million Waldo books in print worldwide, and they’ve been translated in 18 languages.
“A lot of people grew up with Waldo, so a lot of people are really interested in it,” said Graham.
Waldo’s 25th birthday celebration is led by Candlewick Press, the American publisher of “Where’s Waldo?” books, and the American Booksellers Association. The Briar Patch is one of 250 independent bookstores across the country participating in the celebration by creating a Waldo search in their community.
Graham put the word out to the community, and the 20 businesses and organizations who responded to his query first were chosen to participate. He ended up with a good variety, from the Maine Discovery Museum to Deja’Vu hair salon.
“I encourage them to move [the Waldo figurine] around,” said Graham. “I’ve heard of some stores where the employees are hiding them on each other.”
Epic Sports employees give Waldo hunters clues to narrow their search territory. Otherwise, children might be searching tents and kayaks for hours.
“They come through the door, and you see, not so much on the kids faces, but on the parents, there’s this look of bewilderment,” said Brad Ryder, owner of the two-story outdoor sporting store Epic Sports, where one of the Waldos is hidden. “I can’t believe how many people have come in looking for Waldo. It’s been great. They’re having a lot of fun with it.”
At the Rock & Art Shop, Waldo hunters get to hunt through natural wonders of the world — fossils, crystals, preserved creatures and carnivorous plants — interspersed with displays of local creations.
“A lot of people who come in here are just stunned because they didn’t know what to expect,” said shop employee Kat Hubbard.
On Tuesday, young rock collector Liam Pietras, 7, of Milo was exploring the shelves of minerals at the shop with his father Josh Pietras when he came across Waldo.
“I love the Waldo game,” Liam said. “It’s not easy.”
Liam searches for Waldo on his parents’ iPad, but he was excited to walk around and find him in Bangor — almost as excited as he was to find his favorite element, bismuth.
“I think it’s great to have kids look around, to actually walk the whole shop, because they spot things they normally wouldn’t,” said Annette Dodd, one of the shop’s owners. “Kat hid Waldo, and she did a really good job.”