Shelves with hidden elves aim to bring extra excitement for downtown Iowa City shoppers

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - There’s so much to see at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City.

Crumpet the Elf hides on a bookshelf at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. 47 downtown businesses are participating in a scavenger hunt geared toward children during the holiday season (Mary Green/KCRG)

Books line shelves across all three floors of the downtown business, but in the children’s section, three-year-old Hannah Hasan searched Tuesday for something else.

“Elf,” she said, straightforwardly.

On a bookshelf far out of Hasan’s reach sat a small, stuffed elf. It’s one of more than 40 elves hiding around Iowa City businesses as part of the Downtown District’s annual “Downtown Hunt for the Elves.”

“Iowa City’s getting big, and so there are people that are from the area that don’t come downtown all that often, and it’s great to have them downtown,” Jan Weissmiller, owner of Prairie Lights, said.

Businesses that participate name their own elves each year, one of the best parts for employees at the Iowa Artisans Gallery, who settled on the name “Pookie Pickle-Pants” for 2019.

“Every year, we come up with a really funny name, and then the kids always ask, ‘What’s the name of your elf?’ And then they repeat it back, so it’s really funny to hear them try to read the name and then say the name,” Meghan Carter, assistant store manager, said.

At Prairie Lights, Crumpet the Elf is known to move around the store from day-to-day.

“And maybe he moves by himself. We don’t know sometimes,” Weissmiller said.

But Crumpet wasn’t tricky enough to fool Hasan, who spotted him with help from her nanny. The find gave the three-year-old her ninth elf discovery, each marked with a stamp on a card that elf hunters carry from store to store.

Kids who spot at least 10 elves receive a reward when they turn their cards in at the Englert Theatre, Iowa Book or the Iowa City Public Library, and they’re eligible to win a grand prize as well.

The elves will be hiding around downtown Iowa City until Jan. 2.