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The Finders Keepers Project

Lincoln City’s modern take on a coastal pastime

Beautiful glass floats are hidden over the seven-mile stretch of beach in Lincoln City, Oregon. If you find one you get to keep it. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Up and down the west coast of the United States people love to beachcomb, and one of the most prized finds is glass fishing floats. It is much rare to find these today as they have been replaced in the fishing industry by plastic and aluminum floats. Lincoln City, Oregon, has established a modern take on this pastime with the Finders Keepers Project. Each year, over 3,000 art glass floats hand-made by local artisans are planted on the beach by Lincoln City Float Fairies, a dedicated group of volunteers.

The program began when a local artist brought up the idea to hide glass floats on the beach as a way to mark the millennium. The inaugural season was 1999-2000 and was sponsored by Lincoln City. The event was hugely popular drawing people from all over to the area. The city decided to make it an annual event during the off-season and recently extended the program to year-round beginning this fall.

Finders Keepers is a perfect mix of history, art and outdoor activity. This year, the uniquely colored glass floats are made by eight different local art studios. Each artist signs and numbers their creation. Once completed, the globes are distributed to the Float Fairies. These dedicated volunteers are screened through an application process and sworn to secrecy with their identities a carefully guarded secret. Rain or shine, they hide floats throughout the seven-mile stretch of beach from Roads End on the north to Siletz Bay in the south. Hiding takes place during the whole day, not all at once.

Begin your search for a float at the SW 51st Street Beach Access. The glass globes are hidden above the high tide line and below the beach embankment. It can be as simple as laying right on the sand to being hidden in the beach grass or amidst the logs and driftwood. There are seven miles of beach in Lincoln City so there are plenty of places it can be hidden. The beach access is in the Historic Taft District and is a great area to explore when you are done beachcombing with lots of shops, restaurants and attractions. Two places worth visiting are the North Lincoln County Historical Society Museum and the Lincoln City Glass Center. (Insider Tip: During the holiday week from Nov. 22-25, the Float Fairies will hide an extra 50 floats. If you find a float, make sure to register it. Call 541.996.1274 or text FLOATS to 24587. You will receive information about the artist who made your float and a certificate of authenticity.)

To learn more about fishing floats, visit the North Lincoln County Historical Society Museum to view their extensive collection of Japanese Fishing Floats donated by Jim Watson and Nick Simpson. Glass floats ranged from a few inches to a few feet in diameter and were used to float the top edges of fishing nets. Many were wrapped in rope to protect them. Some of the collection washed up on the Oregon coast, blown by wind and currents all the way from Japan. The museum also has interesting exhibits about the area's history as a beach town.

Lincoln City Glass Center is a fun place to visit. If you don't find a float, you can make one at the glass blowing studio or just watch the artisans blowing glass. It is a fascinating process. (Insider Tip: If you decide to make your own float, make a reservation and know the glass has to cool 24 hours before you can pick it up.)

For more information on Finders Keepers and visiting Lincoln City, check out: There is lots of useful information on where to stay and other fun activities. 

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