FAIR HAVEN’S KIDS CELEBRATE WALDO’S 25TH

More than 75 Fair Haven kids came out to play with Waldo in a month-long scavenger hunt that culminated in the beloved character’s birthday party Thursday. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

As summer winds down, August starts to feel like the longest month. For kids, it’s one giant countdown to back-to-school time.

In an effort to keep local kids’ minds and bodies active during the season’s final leg, the women of Fair Haven’s River Road Books came up with a fun idea – a month-long scavenger hunt of sorts. They brought Where’s Waldo? to life.

A series of children’s books by British illustrator Martin Handford, Where’s Waldo? features a tall brunet man in glasses, blue jeans and an iconic candy-cane-striped shirt and hat combo. In every spread, he is surrounded by some of the busiest illustrated locations in an attempt to conceal him.

For the past 25 years, kids have been finding Waldo in department stores and football stadiums, at the beach and crowded carnivals. To celebrate his 25th anniversary, Fair Haven’s children scoured the town to find him in approximately 30 local businesses.

Kim Robinson, one of the book store’s four owners, said they heard of the 25th anniversary scavenger hunt from other bookstores and decided to implement it in a way that would appeal to Fair Haven children. The anniversary became a birthday, and the month-long search culminated in a party Thursday, complete with balloons and a birthday cake. The bookstore spread the word through its email list and a sign in the window. The rest was word of mouth from excited kids.

“The response was amazing,” said Robinson. “Tons of kids signed up and came in to get their maps. They wanted something to do for August.” The maps – hand-drawn to depict downtown Fair Haven – outlined which businesses had a photo of Waldo hidden somewhere inside. Kids ran around town throughout the month collecting initials of shop owners.

“Some of the businesses really got into it. In fact, we received a few phone calls from people thanking us for doing it; they thought it was great,” Robinson said.

On Thursday, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the kids gathered at River Road Books to turn in their maps and have some fun. A few business donated items such as pencils, Slinkies and puppy posters for the kids. There was a beanbag toss, a matching game with scenes from Waldo’s books and make-your-own Waldo glasses for the crafty ones. And yes – they could even meet Waldo. Robinson’s 14-year-old son, John, donned the classic costume and posed for pictures.

Mayor Ben Lucarelli stopped by to cut the cake, which had been donated by Gourmet Picnic next door. “I was in Fairwinds Deli one day and a whole bunch of kids came running in going, ‘Where’s Waldo?’,” said Lucarelli. “Kudos to River Road Books for coming up with such a neat idea. It’s really fantastic to see kids engaged in reading and get them running around town. Very, very clever.”

Robinson said the event overall was just a “great thing for kids. Plus everybody loves Waldo.”