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The hunt for Waldo hits the Square this month

For over 30 years children have been trying to find Waldo in books, but once a year in Oxford, the hunt takes over the Square.

July marks the “Where’s Waldo Local” event hosted by Square Books, which began this past week.

The search to find Waldo is a nationwide annual event co-sponsored by Candlewick Press, the publisher of Where’s Waldo books, and the American Booksellers Association where children can pick up a passport and search participating independent business for Waldo. This year marks the eighth year Square Books has held the summer event.

“They thought of this as a way of promoting local shopping during July,” Alissa Lilly said. “It can be a pretty slow month for businesses. A lot of people are on vacation or just staying inside because it’s so hot. It’s kind of got a two-fold purpose. One is to promote local business and shopping during a slow month and the second is to, of course, promote sales of Waldo books.”

Lilly is the “Where’s Waldo Local” event coordinator and also helps with other events for Square Books. When they began the month-long event in 2012, Waldo books had been a thing of the past for many years. Sales of Waldo books and other Waldo toys have skyrocketed in part of the event.

In the initial year, there were around 300 passports given out and last year there were approximately 1,000 passports given out.

Kids can pick up a passport at any of the three Square Books locations on the Square and form there the hunt for Waldo begins. There are 25 locally-owned shops on the Square – including all three Square Books stores – participating and children must go to each store and find where Waldo has been hidden. Once they find them the store will stamp the kids’ passport.

“Kids have been asking about it for the past six months,” Lilly said. “‘Are y’all doing it again? When is it going to start?’ So, then they’re just waiting and waiting for it and then the morning of July 1 they’re ready to go.”

Participating stores include JANE, Cat Daddy’s, University Sporting Goods, Neilson’s Children Department, The Lily Pad, YaYa’s Frozen Yogurt and the Visit Oxford Tourism Center.

To keep it an interesting event all month long and to avoid children telling their friends where Waldo might be located some stores, including Off Square Books, will relocate their Waldo everyday.

“For the most part kids will come in with an adult, they’ll find Waldo and leave, but sometimes the adult will buy something or (the mom) will come back,” Lilly said. “Especially if its a new store and the mom maybe hasn’t gone in that store and knows it exists. Its a way to discover a new store.”

There is a prize to reward the children for spending a few days roaming stores in search of Waldo. If 10 stamps are collected in the passport, the child will receive an ‘I Found Waldo’ button. If 20 or more stamps are earned, the child will be entered into a drawing to earn a Waldo prize pack. An entry form is on the back of the passport.

The event runs through July 31 where a Waldo celebration will take place at Off Square Books at 4 p.m. Waldo and his friend Wenda will be in attendance and the prize pack drawings will also take place then.