Where’s Waldo unearths real live Waldo

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

People packed Reading Frenzy Bookshop in Zimmerman Tuesday for the “Where’s Waldo Party,” including a real life Waldo.

Waldo Leistico, an 80-year-old Nowthen man and his wife, Avis, turned out for the festivities.

“We heard about Where’s Waldo in Zimmerman and decided to come check it out,” Waldo said.

“It was perfect timing,” Avis smiled, “because yesterday was 45 years to the day that I found my Waldo and we got engaged.”

She held up a headband with a blue rose beside a pink rose that she won during the drawing from Ramshackled Treasures.  “I love it,” she laughed, “It’s perfect for our anniversary.”

The Leisticos were also awarded an honorary gift of the Waldo figure used in the scavenger hunt.  “Thank you,” Waldo said, holding it up. “It will look wonderful on our mantelpiece.”

The “Where’s Waldo in Zimmerman Scavenger Hunt” was designed by Reading Frenzy Bookstore to help draw people to visit businesses during the heavy road construction on Fremont Avenue/County Road 4 that continues to interrupt the normal flow through sections of the city’s main artery.

The grand finale offered door prizes donated from more than 20 Zimmerman area businesses.

Reading Frenzy Bookshop owners Sheri and Mike Olson held up prizes donated by Zimmerman businesses, which included Papa’s Italian, Art Reflections, Ramshackled Treasures, Johnson’s Hardware Hank, the American Legion, and Nelson Nursery to name a few.

Reading Frenzy Bookshop owner Sheri Olson prepares the crowd for the “Where’s Waldo in Zimmerman Scavenger Hunt” drawing.

The Leistico’s visit marked a long absence from Zimmerman.

“I lived here 75 years ago,” Waldo said, adding that he thought the event was a great idea to get people to visit their local businesses as well as get businesses to get to know each other too.  They see the need.

Mason, 13, did the neighborly thing
“We discovered that many of the businesses in Zimmerman don’t know where other Zimmerman businesses are located,” he lamented.  “For example, we asked around where American Family Insurance was, and no one could tell us, so we went searching for it and found it for them,” he laughed, “I guess that’s why I’m Waldo.”

More than a few of the winning names from the drawing were not present to claim their prizes and 13-year-old Mason Decker claimed to be a neighbor to many of them.  “I’ll make sure the prizes get to them,” he offered.  After the fourth winning “neighbor” that he offered take the prize for, owner Mike Olson became mildly suspicious.

“Where do you live to have so many neighbors?” Olson asked him.  “These are all going to end up in your room, aren’t they?” he joked, but it turned out in the end that Decker did indeed know many of the winners.

Nearly 100 prizes were donated
Among the 90 prizes donated were free specialty drinks from Dunn Bros’ Coffee, Pedaling for Pennies T-shirts, $20 gift cards to Angeno’s Pizza, Minnesota Twins decals, and Where’s Waldo postcard books, posters and tote bags.  Even the large cardboard figure of Waldo was won by Grandma June.

Sheri Olson, owner of Reading Frenzy, said she received a lot of positive feedback about the event and the overwhelming response from people visiting stores as part of the scavenger hunt was that they had a great time.  She added that many people told her they had found new businesses that they did not know existed.

“One woman said she’s going to do all her gift shopping in Zimmerman from now on,” Olson said.  “We truly live in a great town and it’s sad to think that some people who live here don’t know how special Zimmerman is with its wonderful businesses located right in our own backyard, and we don’t take the time to shop or eat here.”

Waldo was found by many in Zimmerman, including a real live Waldo.

Awareness sought for local businesses
Olson said she hopes that events such as the “Where’s Waldo in Zimmerman Scavenger Hunt” will change that by creating awareness and drawing businesses and residents together, even if it takes someone as special as Waldo to make it happen.