Teddy bears, Jones House

Teddy bears can be found in the window of the Jones House on King Street. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a teddy bear scavenger hunt has formed across the nation. Community members are placing bears in windows, yards and businesses to brighten moods in isolation, and Watauga County is now taking part in the hunt.

BOONE — Social distancing has hushed neighborhoods across the country, keeping streets quiet and families at home. During this isolation time, a new trend has emerged— and it can be seen poking its furry head out from a neighbor’s window.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a teddy bear scavenger hunt has formed across the nation. Community members are placing bears in windows, yards and businesses to brighten moods in isolation, and Watauga County is now taking part in the hunt.

After Boone local Aimee Ashoff’s sister informed her of a teddy bear scavenger hunt happening in northern Virginia, Ashoff researched online and got inspired.

“This is such an isolating time,” Ashoff said. “Socially, it’s almost a way to kind of connect without having to break social distancing rules.”

Ashoff started the scavenger hunt with close friends and then created a Facebook page on March 31 to get the community involved. People submit photos of bears in Boone, Blowing Rock and near Banner Elk. Ashoff posts these photos to the Facebook page, along with pictures she snaps on walks with her three children.

“People have sent me addresses like ‘Oh there’s a bear here,’” Ashoff said.

Ashoff said her children love spotting teddy bears around town and the hunt brings them joy during this hard time. She reached out to local school systems to get involved and said children enjoy the bear-spotting.

Every day, Ashoff cold-calls businesses and asks if they want to participate and most have so far expressed interest. So far, Arby’s, Makoto’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar and Krispy Kreme have placed teddy bears in their windows or outside the establishments.

Makoto’s owner Gwen Dhing said Ashoff called the restaurant and asked if they wanted to participate. Makoto’s front windows are tinted, so Dhing put a teddy bear outside.

“I thought, what a better thing for kids to do then to go find happy things instead of worrying about what’s going on in the world,” Dhing said.

Dhing said the scavenger hunt is a great idea for children.

“If they can go out and visit places and see a teddy bear that makes them smile, makes them happy, then I’m all for that,” Dhing said.

If any community members want to participate in the scavenger hunt or submit photos of bears they see across town, visit the High Country Teddy Bear hunt on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/High-Country-Teddy-Bear-Hunt.

“It’s lifted my kids spirits and it’s really lifted the spirits of several other children in the community, so I’m hoping more people will get on board,” Ashoff said.

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