By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 30, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Where’s Waldo?

In Milwaukee, during the month of July, he’s practically everywhere, thanks to Boswell Book Co.’s Find Waldo Local scavenger hunt promotion.

Patrons can stop at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave., on Tuesday, July 1, to pick up a Find Waldo Passport.

Then they visit at least 15 of the 30 participating indie merchants -- like Boswell, Sendik’s on Downer, Rocket Baby in Tosa, Fischberger’s in Riverwest, Purple Door Ice Cream in Walker’s Point and others (a complete list is here) -- find Waldo in the shop and get the passport validated.

Once they've hit 15, they can head over to Boswell (by July 30) to receive a $1 Boswell coupon, a Waldo sticker and a chance to win prizes donated by Fischberger’s Variety, Rocket Baby Bakery, Purple Door Ice Cream, Indulgence Chocolatiers, Board Game Barrister, Outpost Natural Foods, Olive Fine Organic Living, Nehring's Sendiks on Downer and Boswell.

The promotion is a repeat of one that debuted last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the be-striped children’s book character.

"We actually passed on the Find Waldo Local the first year, to see how it worked and what the response was," says Boswell Books owner Daniel Goldin.

"I had several enthusiastic staffers who wanted us to try it last summer, and it succeeded beyond our expectations. I couldn't believe how many kids wanted to run around town looking for Waldo. I had one family bicycle everywhere -- to Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, Bay View and Wauwatosa. As soon as we put up the window, kids started coming in saying, 'Can I pick up my passport yet? Can I pick up my passport yet?'"

The promotion was launched by Waldo books publisher, the Massachusetts-based Candlewick Press, to, naturally, boost sales of Waldo books. Goldin says the promotion has had that effect, but it has also been beneficial in that it also spotlights the locally owned independent businesses that help create the character of the city.

"One of the nicest things we heard is that Waldo seemed to do exactly what it was supposed to do," says Boswell owner Daniel Goldin. "We heard from a number of retailers that said that the Waldo promotion really drove traffic.

"I asked several shops last July how things were going, and most were beyond enthusiastic. A lot of folks visited these stores for the first time, and as you know with promotions, it's hard to get folks to come in the first time. If you did a good job, they'll come back. My favorite quote was from Downer Hardware, who had one parent remark while searching for Waldo, 'Oh, you make keys?' Hey, if that's what it takes!"

Sarah Ditzenberger, co-owner of Fischberger's, says the promotion has been successful for her Riverwest variety store.

"Folks are picking up passports for kids, grandkids and neighbors," she says. "We love it when kids ask us if they can hide Waldo after they've found him. We always let them hide Waldo afresh but make sure they tell us where -- otherwise sometimes we're looking for quite a while!"

The 30 participating businesses are scattered all over the Milwaukee area, from Bay View to Whitefish Bay, Walker's Point to Wauwatosa, Riverwest to Shorewood. Goldin admits it cuts a wide swath, but thinks that's part of the allure for participants, who are eager to learn about interesting shops they might not run across serendipitously.

"We know that the geographic area is a little spread out, but we were searching for our favorite kid-friendly stores that our customers might not know about, like Fischberger's Variety in Riverwest and the newly relocated Soaps and Scents in the Wauwatosa Village," he says.

"Someone knew to town might not know about Winkie's in Whitefish Bay or Little Monsters, just south of us on Farwell, but probably not some place you'd find if you weren't looking for it."

A drawing for prizes from the participating businesses will be held at Boswell -- where there’s also a wrap-up party -- from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 31. There will be refreshments and Waldo-themed fun for kids, an appearance by Waldo himself and an announcement for another fun event for kids of all ages.

While you’re out scouring the city for Waldo’s red and white, pom-pommed hat, snap photos and share your progress on Twitter using the #WaldoMKE hashtag, and on Facebook at the event page.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.