25 August 2021

Ken Behrens may be so last week, but long live Wally

| James Coleman
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Wally picture attached to tree

Wally is popping up in parks and gardens around Canberra. Photo: Laura Baumeister, ‘Where’s Wally CBR Lockdown 2021’ Facebook.

‘Ken Behrens’ lived a short, but meaningful life. He was born in a press conference out of a captioning typo, rose to fame within hours as a symbol we could all look to for pulling together through a tough time, before dying last week when ACT Policing used his name in an attempt at poetry.

But this week he has been replaced by a character known all over the globe: Wally.

People walking around Upper Stranger Pond in Bonython may get the distinct feeling they are being watched. Near life-size cardboard cutouts of the famous cartoon character in the red striped shirt and denim jeans have appeared near the water’s edge, in a real-life version of the British puzzle gamebook series, Where’s Wally?

Smaller versions are also popping up in windows, gardens, trees and fences around the suburbs in an effort to spread some cheer and intrigue to families with kids who are outdoors for exercise.

Michelle Gerwien, from Bonython, says she and her daughter, Zali, used the week off from formal home-schooling to look through a Where’s Wally? book, before sketching the characters on large pieces of cardboard.

Cardboard cutout of Wally

Wally out for a walk in Bonython. Photo: Michelle Gerwien.

The rest of the family helped to paint them, before Zali’s step-dad cut them out and attached them to garden stakes.

“We have had many older people thanking us for making their walks a bit more enjoyable,” says Michelle. “We have had families take photos with the characters and very excited children running around them.”

Cardboard Wally and his friends also move around, weather permitting.

“We put them out around the pond area at around 10:00 am and bring them back between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm,” says Michelle. “My children also painted 17 rocks with Wally characters for children to find and re-hide, but sadly these have all been removed.”

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Meanwhile, a Facebook group called ‘Where’s Wally CBR Lockdown 2021’ is dedicated to getting the cartoon character out there and bringing smiles to children’s faces.

The 313-strong group says the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown featured a bear hunt, so this time around the theme is Where’s Wally?

According to the Facebook page, the rules are simple:

“Print, draw or colour your Wally pic and pop it up in the windows of your homes for kids walking with their families during lockdown.”

'Where's Wally?' themed painted rocks

Wally-themed rocks are included in the community hunt. Photo: Michelle Gerwien.

Many of the designs depict Wally wearing a mask, or are accompanied by messages such as ‘Stay Safe, Ken Behrens!’

Those around Gordon Pond even include a points system, where some of the cutouts are worth more than others depending on how difficult they are to find.

Nobody is quite sure where it began, but placing teddy bears on your property in a place visible from the footpath has become something of a global lockdown trend.

It has been dubbed ‘Bear Hunt’, and here in Canberra it is basically an urban version of all those teddy bears pinned to trees along Kings Highway, between Queanbeyan and Bungendore, most likely with the purpose of quelling the incessant questions of, “Are we there yet?”

READ ALSO Calls for native bird on ACT’s emblem to be listed as endangered

ABC Radio Canberra kicked off a #DinosAgainstDelta movement last week so in addition to Wally, dinosaurs are also joining in on the action. ABC said in a social media post at the time that the delta variant of COVID-19 needed more ‘grrrr’.

It’s unknown whether or not anyone has since been sacked for that pun.

Michelle says she and her kids are getting in on the dinosaur action, too.

“Zali has started to sketch four cartoon dinosaurs on plywood to be put out soon,” she says.

Ken Behrens might be dead, but his spirit lives on.

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