OK Questers. If you need one more incentive to pull on your boots, grab your fleece, and tromp through parks and into businesses around Stanwood and Camano Island, here it is:
The ninth annual Great Northwest Glass Quest is under way through Feb. 25. And there are more hand-blown glass floats being given away this year than ever before.
“Almost 150 more than last year,” said Mark Ellinger, the artist, who with his son, Marcus Ellinger, makes the much-sought-after artistic glass floats.
The father-son team produced about 450 of the glass balls for the event, and another 150 will be available for purchase.
For those who have never been questing before, it’s relatively easy. Find your way to the Stanwood area, and download or pick up a map of where the 3-inch clue balls are hidden.
Each clue ball has instructions inside, said Jessica McCready, who works in marketing for the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce, the sponsoring organization. “Every clue ball says, ‘Congratulations! Now go get your glass ball.’ ”
Each of the limited-edition floats awarded through finding a clue ball comes with a certificate of authenticity and is stamped on the bottom with the year it was produced.
Online updates each day will reveal how many clue balls remain at the area’s parks.
Some of the clue balls also are hidden in area businesses. You don’t need to move merchandise around to find them, but they can be a bit camouflaged. One store hid a clue ball inside an onion peel.
Prepare for some stiff competition to find the clue balls.
As many as 15,000 could participate this year, McCready said. In the weeks leading up to this year’s event, people began calling from California, Oregon and Vancouver, B.C., asking for details.
The event’s Facebook page has more than 2,500 followers.
People can check in on the event’s website to enter the competition for a daily raffle of a glass float. “People really like that,” McCready said. “It gives you another shot at winning a glass ball.”
Ellinger, 60, helped launch the annual event, in the early years doing much of the work himself in addition to producing the colorful floats.
“When it first started, we had four parks,” he said. “We were hiding two clue balls at the state parks every day. It was another full-time job.”
Ellinger first began creating the artistic floats for a similar event in Lincoln City, Oregon, in 2001.
He puts clue balls and other glass art in the field surrounding his glass blowing workshop, Glass Quest Studio, in northeast Stanwood.
“We tell people we open the gate at 10 a.m.,” he said. “Last year, we had 150 people waiting to go back to the back field. I didn’t have any room for people to park. It’s just crazy.”
One couple comes every year, taking time off to participate. “They were in my back field every morning,” he said.
Experienced questers are easy to pick out. They come prepared for the weather and conditions, dressed in layers and carrying some sort of poking stick to look for the clue balls, Ellinger said.
“It can get a little tense and competitive,” he said.
But most people just come to enjoy the free event. “There are people who are addicted to it,” Ellinger said. “People get so excited when they find a clue ball.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-386 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The ninth annual Great Northwest Glass Quest, the hunt for clue balls that qualify the finders for a hand-blown glass float, is 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Feb. 25 on Camano Island and in Stanwood. Guidebooks are available online at: thegreatnwglassquest.com/blog