By Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Normally, it’s not until spring that people start thinking about getting into shape and sorting through their wardrobes. But Lincoln City’s crack team of Float Fairies have been training hard since the start of fall to get into peak condition for the 19th season of Finders Keepers.
The beach-going volunteers have also been rifling through their closets to find jackets with plenty of pockets large enough to hold the colorful glass floats that they will be hiding on Lincoln City’s seven and a half miles of sandy beaches every day for the next six months.
The Fairies will start dropping the colorful keepsakes on Saturday, Oct. 14, and continue through May, 28, Memorial Day 2018, hiding some 2,018 officially numbered glass floats from Roads End at the north end of town to Siletz Bay at the south end. Floats can be found above the high tide line and below the beach embankment, and are always hidden during daylight hours.
Finders Keepers has been running since 1999, when a local artist came up with the idea of using glass floats mark the year 2000.
The program was inspired by the green and blue glass floats that used to wash up regularly on Oregon’s shores, having broken loose from Japanese fishing nets. Ranging from a few inches to two feet across, these floats were the ultimate find for any dedicated beachcomber. Today, fishing vessels around the world use buoyant plastic, making glass floats a rare find — except in Lincoln City during the Finders Keepers season.
Each year, tourists continue to come from around the country to search for their own brightly colored, signed and numbered glass float. Anyone who finds a float can take it to the Visitors’ Center at 540 NE Hwy. 101 to receive a certificate of authenticity and a biography of the artist who created the treasure.
To mark the start of the 19th season, Float Fairies will be hiding 100 extra floats on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 and 15, along with a jumbo float that entitles the finder to a weekend getaway package.
Kelly Howard of Lincoln City Glass Center, Inc., one of several glass blowers that produce floats for the program, said the start of Finders Keepers always leads to a flood of visitors, stories of triumph and the occasional tale about the one that got away.
One such tale, she said, came from a customer at the company’s Volta Glass Gallery whose construction worker’s build was not enough to guarantee success on Lincoln City’s beaches.
“He was on the beach closing in on a float and this 70-year-old woman dives through the sand and grabs it,” she said. “It’s pretty steep competition out there.”
But Volta manager Tracy Blakeman said the gallery also hears its fair share of heart-warming stories, like the one that started with a man whose lack of success had led him to question whether there were any floats on the beach at all.
“While he’s in here, a little girl comes in with a float and says ‘I found one, I found one!’” Blakeman said.
So the man went back out to the beach the next day and found a float of his own, which he brought in to the gallery to show to the staff.
“He said ‘she inspired me to go out again,’” Blakeman said.
For more information, contact the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau at 800-452-2151 or go to www.oregoncoast.org.
• As if daily float drops weren’t enough, the Float Fairies will be making special drops throughout the next few months. These special drops will include a combination of antique Japanese glass floats, holiday-themed floats and other glass art pieces. For a schedule of upcoming drops, go to http://www.oregoncoast.org/glass-floats.
• If you find a float, be sure to share your photos of it via Facebook at www.facebook.com/LincolnCityOregon or on Twitter using the tag @ lcvcb and #FindersKeepers.
• If you have limited mobility or are unable to walk on the beach due to disability, stop by the Visitors’ Center at 540 NE Hwy. 101 and fill out an entry form for a chance to win a glass float.