Since its national launch in July 2012, the Find Waldo Local promotion has continued to build excitement. A number of booksellers called the 2017 program, which was co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association and Candlewick Press, particularly strong.

“Our sixth year was definitely the best. We had more people than ever hunt and find Waldo,” Rachel Watkins, communications manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., said. Francine Lucidon, owner of the Voracious Reader in Larchmont, N.Y., agreed. She attributed this year’s success to “so many new families in town and people eager for local fun!”

Fewer businesses participated with Novel Books in Clarksburg, Md., this year, for its second Find Waldo Local programming: 19 compared to 25 last year. But owner Patrick Darby said more families took part, and one business found a clever way to please young Waldo-spotters: have the child who finds Waldo hide him. That simple idea was such a success that Darby, who is already planning for 2018, said that he’ll encourage more businesses to try it next year.

Rachel Kempster Barry, managing director of three-year-old Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub in Madison, N.J., said, “[Find Waldo Local] was so much fun—and a great way to introduce myself and the store to the other businesses in Madison.”

Ten-month-old Posman Books Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga., also used the celebration as a way to introduce the store to the neighborhood. It worked, manager Marc Stiles explained, because “families love the scavenger hunt, kids love Waldo and Wenda, and our business partners love the extra attention and sales the event is bringing to their stores.”

Booksellers learned that finding Waldo isn’t just for kids. “This was BookTowne’s first year participating and we had a great time,” said bookseller Peter Albertelli. “We had adults doing it on their own just to see the shops and experience our town [Manasquan, N.J.]. Market Block Books in Troy, N.Y., also drew an older crowd, in its case college students.

Some stores gave out a lot of passports, 900 at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, Calif., where, owner Judy Wheeler said, “Good times were had by all.” In Frederick, Md., Curious Iguana received 750 completed passports and had 165 participants at its We Found Waldo party.

But the Central Business Improvement District of downtown Knoxville in Knoxville, Tenn., might have handed out the most passports. It distributed 6,000; 1,000 Waldo spotters, who visited more than 20 locations, returned completed passports to Union Ave Books. The city had 36 participating merchants, and a Waldo rode the free downtown bus to promote public transportation in July.

Although many stores kicked off Find Waldo Local month at their local Fourth of July parade, Gathering Volumes Bookstore in Perrysburg, Oh., tried something a bit different. Its kickoff coincided with its Art Party to celebrate local artists. One artist even did her best to help get party-goers into the Waldo spirit with a special painting of Waldo a la Vincent van Gogh.

But no matter the size of the celebration, one thing seemed to be consistent; everyone had a lot of fun. As Stefani Kelley at the Book Nook in Brenham, Tex., summed it up, “Every year we are blown away by the enthusiasm of our participants.”

Waldo, Waldo everywhere at the Book Cellar in Chicago.

Kids find Waldo at the July 4th Parade hosted by Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif.

Livin’ the dream with Waldo and Wenda at the Voracious Reader in Larchmont, N.Y.

The photo booth at bbgb tales for kids in Richmond, Va., was a hit. Photo: Jill Stefanovich

Waldo (Emil Christmann, manager) and Wenda (Megan Irland) don life vests for Paddlefest in the run-up to the Waldopalooza Celebration at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, N.Y. Photo: Mindy Ostrow

Waldo Look-Alikes at Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, Minn.

Waldo hides behind his friend Mark Twain as part of the Fairfield University Bookstore event in Fairfield, Ct. Photo: Nancy Quinn

A young Waldo-spotter at Sparta Books in Sparta, N.J. Photo: Mindy Kemper

Thanks to Shop Local Raleigh, 26 businesses joined Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., for Find Waldo Local. Here kids color during a party with a live-action Waldo hunt and, of course, cake.

Waldo tries to blend in with the sock monkeys at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn.

Let there be cake at Main Point Books in Wayne, Pa. Photo: Cathy Fiebach

Waldo picks the raffle winner at the We Found Waldo party at the Bookshelf in Thomasville, Ga.

Waldo with bookstore owner Jim Hess outside Let’s Play Books! in Emmaus, Pa.

Wenda works the Fourth of July parade crowd and hands out passports for Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine.

Waldo comes in all sizes at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

The lucky winner of a Waldo pin, which was hidden inside a cupcake at the Waldo party at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, Calif.

A crowd of young Waldo fans at Book Ends in Winchester, Mass.

Waldo hangs out with his favorite books, the ones about him, at Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, Miss. Photo: Sami Thomason

Wenda (seventh grader Izzy), Waldo (teacher Nelson Spratt), and Woof (aka Lola, a six-year-old Jack Russell mix) at the photo booth at Horton’s Books & Gifts in Carrollton, Ga. Photo: J. McWhorter

Wenda and friends at the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, Ill.

Local artist Rose Letherby joins the opening night Art Party/Find Waldo Local kickoff event with a painting of “Where’s Waldo Van Gogh?” at Gathering Volumes Bookstore in Perrysburg, Oh.

Waldo and the littlest Wendas at Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle.

Chris Blue, a Knoxville native and winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” is spotted with Waldo in the downtown Knoxville art alley. A local artist added Waldo to the alley last year.

Waldo and Little Miss Marigold (Alora) at Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga. Photo: Savanna Sturkie

Waldo ducks behind a display at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, Ill. Photo: Rachel Bellavia

You’re never too young to celebrate Waldo at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass. Photo: Lydia McOscar

I found Waldo at {pages} in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Photo: Sunni Won

Hanging with Waldo at Byrd’s Books in Bethel, Ct.

A mini-Waldo joins the fun at Changing Hands in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo: Emmy Widener

Find Waldo Local returns for the fourth year at Mitchell’s Book Corner in Nantucket, Mass. Photo: Tim Ehrenberg

It’s a wrap at the photo booth at the Book Nook in Brenham, Tex. Photo: Stefani Kelley