When you visit the beaches of Lincoln City this year, you probably won’t see Rebecca Graham. She has a top-secret identity (this being her alias), which she employs as she heads to the beach from fall to spring with a covert mission: to slip 3,000 custom-made glass floats each year onto the beach for visitors to find and keep.
As a designated Float Fairy for the Finders Keepers program, Rebecca has worked hard to perfect the art of clandestine float hiding by never establishing a dispersal pattern, wearing varying clothing, and alternating between five different modes of transportation.
The program is a nostalgic nod to the erstwhile pastime of searching for Japanese net floats — blown glass balls occasionally transported to the Oregon Coast by ocean currents in decades past. Today, net floats are plastic; Lincoln City recreates the experience by having local artists fashion beautiful new blown glass floats in a rainbow of colors, then tasking out volunteer Float Fairies to distribute them.
When Rebecca moved to Lincoln City several years ago, she and her family began combing local beaches in hopes of finding a float. Three years later, a friend approached her with a secret and a request — she was a Float Fairy ready to retire. Would Rebecca take her place? She agreed.
Between mid-October and Memorial Day, Rebecca places five to 10 floats per week on the seven-mile stretch of Lincoln City, from Roads End to Siletz Bay. “You have to be aware of who is watching you,” she says. “But most of the time, no one is. They are all looking for floats.” Sometimes, she just drops a float as she’s walking. “If you don’t appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary, no one sees it happen.”
Taking her stealth to the next level, Rebecca lingers on the beach after her work is done to see who claims the prize. “It’s part of the payoff for me, to wait to see their reaction,” she says.
Sometimes, she ends up in conversation with the finder. Once, a woman plucked her float from the sand and began sobbing. It turned out that she was visiting the coast to spread her son’s ashes, making the find especially meaningful. Another time, a group of women were so elated to find a float they surrounded Rebecca to share their story.
Rebecca’s favorite time of day to place floats is just before sunset, when wet, exhausted float seekers may still be on the hunt while there is still daylight. “People come from all over to find floats,” she says. “Sometimes, they simply won’t leave until they find one.” Rebecca will wait until nearly sunset to drop a float by the beach entrance, hoping the hardworking searchers will leave victorious.
On occasion, Rebecca wishes she could share her experiences with others. But it’s more important to keep her secret identity intact, and reward enough to see how happy people are to find a colorful hand-blown glass float. “We’re creating stories,” she says. “The finders are so excited to tell everyone what they found.”
Check out the Finders Keepers page for tips and hints about float drops, information about the artists, and the schedule for special drops during events and holidays. Happy hunting!