The 11th Annual Great Northwest Glass Quest is scheduled Feb. 14-23 in the Stanwood area. Questers who find clue balls are rewarded with hand-blown glass floats by Mark and Marcus Ellinger. (Glass Quest Studio)

The 11th Annual Great Northwest Glass Quest is scheduled Feb. 14-23 in the Stanwood area. Questers who find clue balls are rewarded with hand-blown glass floats by Mark and Marcus Ellinger. (Glass Quest Studio)

Great Northwest Glass Quest kicks off on Valentine’s Day

If you find a clue ball, you’ll get to trade it in for a hand-blown glass float made by local artisans.

It’s a once-a-year chance to take home a free, hand-blown glass float created by local artists Mark and Marcus Ellinger.

The Great Northwest Glass Quest, a 10-day event that kicks off Friday, is expected to bring some 10,000 visitors to Stanwood and Camano Island.

Questers will be checking the interiors of local shops and the grounds of area parks looking for hidden 3-inch clue balls. Inside each clue ball are instructions for where to exchange it for one of the limited-edition glass floats.

The glass floats have been awarded to hunters as young as 4, said Jessica McCready, executive director of the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event.

“People literally jump up and down and smile from ear to ear when they’re one of the lucky few that find a clue ball,” she said.

Fair warning: Some of the clue balls may be camouflaged. Even so, questers should be able to spot those hidden in stores with careful observation. “They shouldn’t have to move merchandise around,” she said.

This year, 485 glass floats have been created for the event. Mark Ellinger, owner of Glass Quest studio, said he’s received some last-minute requests from local businesses to create a few more of the glass art pieces.

Since this year’s event begins on Valentine’s Day, he and his son have created some floats with hearts in the design.

One the pleasures of creating hundreds of floats for the event is the artistic license he and his son have in creating them, Mark Ellinger said.

“Nobody wants us to make anything the same,” he said. “That’s kind of the fun part of glass blowing — just playing around with all the colors and mixing the different colors together.”

Some visitors stop by his Glass Quest studio and buy a float before they go out hunting. “That way there’s no pressure,” he said. “If they find one great, if not, it’s no big deal.”

This year, customers can stop by the studio and buy a custom-made float that will be created on the spot in the colors they choose.

In addition to questing, there are other ways to score a free glass float.

Those who check in online or through the event app qualify for a daily drawing for one of the floats.

Getting an event passport stamped at six participating businesses qualifies questers for a drawing for a float. Or you can buy a non-limited edition float at a discount of $50. (The price is $65 without a stamped booklet.)

A special handicapped-accessible and age 65 and up event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to dusk Feb. 21 at Camano Center, 606 Arrowhead Road. Clue balls will be hidden outside of the building.

Part of the event’s fun is providing an opportunity for first-time visits to local businesses, McCready said.

It’s also a chance to get outside and enjoy the area. Freedom Park, off Highway 532, has a great playground for kids, she said.

“The state parks have eagles flying above and seals diving,” she said. “There’s lots of things to do while they’re out and about.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

If you go

The Great Northwest Glass Quest, the annual hunt for clue balls hidden in parks and businesses in Stanwood and on Camano Island and redeemed for limited-edition hand-blown glass floats, takes place Feb. 14-23. There’s no charge to play. Download the booklet that has maps with information on where clueballs are hidden and a listing of quest events at Download an app with event information at

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