Guest Blog Post by Kevin Coolidge, Owner - From My Shelf Books & Gifts
Where are the Totally Ninja Raccoons? Those funny raccoons are hiding in 25 area businesses during July.
Every July for seven straight years, From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, has hosted the Candlewick Press search for "Where's Waldo?", the publisher's iconic cartoon character. Due to Covid-19, Candlewick canceled both the 2020 and the 2021 hunt.
Owning a small business is tough. Covid made it tougher. Our bookstore, From My Shelf Books & Gifts, was looking forward to hosting the event. It's a month-long scavenger hunt where players go into dozens of businesses looking for Waldo.
Each Waldo found is a chance to win prizes and gift certificates donated by local businesses. It was a great idea and a fun way to put into practice the 'shop-local' movement. We have families who play every year, even choosing July to vacation in Wellsboro, because of this event. What could we do to replicate the fun?
In response, I decided to host the "Where Are the Totally Ninja Raccoons" search, based on my "Totally Ninja Raccoons" action series for 7 to 10-year-old reluctant readers. The series is about three raccoon brothers who become ninjas.
We set up our own passports, talked to area businesses, wrote press releases, and established our own scavenger hunt for Wellsboro. We even had a local supporter of the bookstore donate a hundred-dollar grand prize.
Each participating business has free passports, listing all the businesses where searchers can find the Ninja Raccoons. When a customer spots the raccoons, the business will stamp or sign the passport.
Visiting children sometimes worry about not having time to search all 25 businesses. We reassure that everyone who plays has a chance to win prizes sponsored by the participating businesses.
For each place you find the Totally Ninja Raccoons and get your passport signed, your name goes on a ticket in the prize jar. We will draw for prizes on Sunday, Aug. 1st via Facebook Live at 1PM. Winners need not be present to win.
Prizes include gift certificates and items donated by participating businesses, a variety of books, Wellsboro Chamber Bucks (local currency put out by our local business chamber), and the grand prize of a hundred dollars.
The first year was a success, with many people enjoying our "Totally Ninja Raccoons" search even more than the previous hunts featuring Waldo. The Totally Ninja Raccoons books are set right in Wellsboro, Pennsylania: people loved the added local flavor.
We decided to repeat the event in 2021, but what about our fellow bookstore owners? We belong to the American Bookseller Association and are in contact with other booksellers via social media. I decided to allow other bookstores to use the Totally Ninja Raccoons images in their own sponsored scavenger hunts.
Several bookstores were interested, but still undecided due to current events. Amy Henderson Henkenius who runs Amy's Bookcase in Farmington, New Mexico decided to take me up on my offer.
Waldo is sponsored by Candlewick Press and is only open to bookstores belonging to the American Bookseller Association. You need to purchase a certain amount of books to participate and it's limited to two hundred stores nationwide.
Amy had been interested in participating in a "Where's Waldo" scavenger hunt, but Amy's Bookstore is primarily a used bookstore. I offered free use of my images and my experience running "Where are the Totally Ninja Raccoons."
Our current event, and Amy's, have been a success. Already, with the event only half over, Amy has businesses ready to sign up for next year, and people are thrilled to have a fun, free, family-friendly event.
Would your business or local chamber like a fun way to practice the 'shop-local' movement? The Where's Waldo event is only open to bookstores, but I would like to offer "Where are the Totally Ninja Raccoons?" to other small busineses. Contact From My Shelf Books & Gifts for details.