“Floating Fairies” will double the bubble for the 2024 show

People planning to explore coastal beaches in the coming weeks in search of strange and interesting treasures are twice as likely to find Japanese glass fishing floats buried in bushes than they were last year.

With the kind of magic a sprite might put a few quarters under a snoozing nine-year-old’s pillow in exchange for an uprooted stool, fairies and floating wranglers float up Grays Harbor beaches in February to hide hundreds of blue and green bubbles. in the sand dunes.

They will be working overtime this year.

Starting Friday the 2nd, 16,800 round glass floats will be hidden on North Beach. That’s double what the fairies delivered last year.

Delivery is expected the first weekend in March, when the annual Beachcombers and Glass Float Expo at the Ocean Shores Convention Center enters its 38th year.

Any glass floats found over the next few weeks can be brought to the convention center from Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 3. Here, beachgoers can register a glass ball and enter their name in a drawing to win a much larger float as a prize.

The massive scavenger hunt is just one part of a famous event that celebrates many aspects of beach cruising in the Pacific Northwest. The first weekend in March will feature beach-bent vendors from California to Alaska, and people will have the opportunity to enter their coastal crafts to compete in dozens of judged categories.

This second year of the new event, formerly billed as the Beachcombers Fun Fair, will have an emphasis on glass floats, said Alan Rammer, a longtime beachcomber and marine educator who helped put together the original event in 1985.

“Everybody loves finding floats,” Rammer said. “Even though they were planted by brawlers and fairies, it’s a real glass float. It’s a thrill.”

The translucent and hollow glass blown spheres used by fishermen to keep their nets afloat first caught Rammer’s attention 54 years ago on a family vacation in Hawaii when a hotel concierge told him and his brothers about the bubbles they might find. in the sand dunes. Later, as a student at the University of Washington, Rammer befriended Amos Wood, author of a book on the search for Japanese glass floats and “the godfather of all beachcombers,” Rammer said.

Rammer, who worked for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for three decades, went on to co-author two of his own books on beachcombing, price guides for glass floats.

But it wasn’t until last year that the floats became the centerpiece of the annual event. After the event’s board chairman fell ill in 2021, putting the fun fair in jeopardy, Rammer teamed up with John Shaw, director of the Westport South Beach Historical Society, to form a new nonprofit called Beachcombers Heritage, which now manages the fair.

The historical society had experience organizing float hunts, which involved “wild” releases – dropping crates of floats into the ocean just offshore and letting the waves wash them naturally to shore.

Shaw said people often share memories of finding floats from their childhood.

“We found that people just loved it,” he said.

Beach item displays at the event have always operated under the rule that all items must be naturally found, not purchased. Recognizing that much of beachcomber culture involves shopping and trading, Rammer said this year’s contests will include a new “masters” category where purchased items are allowed.

Meanwhile, collectors can buy and sell items in the “parking hall,” a nickname for the convention center lobby where people are allowed to sell beach finds, named after former event attendees’ attempts to sell floats out of their back doors in the parking lot. very much out of action.

“We decided to bring them in and incorporate them,” Rammer said.

On Sunday morning, beachcombers turn their attention from treasure to trash and launch a “dash for brash.” Once the participants have filled the bags with as much random trash as possible, the judges will award a prize to the person whose trash is considered the most unusual.

The truly prized items, glass floats from a warehouse in Japan, were originally used as fishing floats, Rammer said. Their value tempted thieves to pack dozens of rounds into a gun bag and take them away, which is a huge deterrent.

“We ask for the courtesy and respect to allow others to find one,” Rammer said. “Don’t take too many.”

Participants can return any floats they find to the convention center until the last day of the festival on Sunday.

Three days before the release, the identity of the floating fairies and where they will hide their treasures remains a mystery.

“We want it to be a little bit of magic,” Shaw said.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.

Daily World file photo Glass floats will be on display and for sale at the 2024 Beachcombers and Glass Float Expo at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, March 1-3.

Daily World file photo Glass floats will be on display and for sale at the 2024 Beachcombers and Glass Float Expo at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, March 1-3.

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