Months of planning and hours of staging were rewarded with hundreds of people turning out for the fourth annual Sea Float Scramble in Langley on Saturday.
Within 15 minutes, every tree, bush, bramble, bench, and rock at Seawall Park was picked over and searched during the city’s annual mad dash for hand-blown glass orbs. Even a few daring souls stripped down or hiked up their pants to wade a couple of feet into Saratoga Passage for floats anchored offshore. Those floats were the cream of the crop, according to the artist who made them.
“To see that enormous amount of dedication from our fans, they literally go all in,” said Callahan McVay, the artist behind the 200 sea floats and 150 wishing stones strewn about Seawall and Langley parks. Sea floats retail at his shop for $29 and wishing stones for $8, though the floats were on sale for $15 the day of the scramble.
An estimated crowd of more than 500 people flooded Langley the morning of Jan. 9, a clear, cool day. With a few entry points to Seawall Park, those initiated previous years waited at the bottom of the stairs to Boy and Dog Park. From there, scramblers could go right or left, seeking different sections of the park. Going toward the other crowd meant more floats, but an increase in people. Going right paid off for Elizabeth Booth, Alex Booth, Cindy Booth, Tara Dodd and Max Dodd, all of whom walked away with a treasured float.
“I like the swirls,” said Tara Dodd of Langley, holding up her light green orb with orange and yellow streaks, like the licks of a well-built fire, wrapping around it.
Her son, Max Dodd, found a blue orb with ridges, like a tightly closed flower bulb that has yet to open.
Children older than 5 were allowed to move to the front of the hordes. As soon as the tape dropped, dozens of children strode out in search of free floats. Kennedy Mulcahy, 9, of Clinton found a float with the Callahan’s Firehouse scallop/clam stamp under a bench in her third year as a scrambler. This year continued the Mulcahy family’s string of successful searching, and her father Eddie Mulcahy said it would join the others on their home’s mantle.
Dalan Abernathy, 6, of Freeland, found an orange float at the children’s scramble held at Langley Park on Second Street and Anthes Avenue. About 50 floats were hidden there, along with more than 100 wishing stones. The boy clutched his float in his coat until asked if he would present it for a picture, a wide smile on his face. Every child at Langley Park left with at least a wishing stone.
Behind Dalan, dozens of empty-handed scramblers walked back up the hill in search of heat, food and whatever else they could find in Langley’s shops. They were the unlucky majority, victims of the event’s success in which the more popular it becomes, the more rare the free floats are. Several people complained about the organization of the event, particularly related to the inclusion of children, even those older than 6 or 7, in the main scramble. Some of them fell down as they were rushed by the crowd, one woman said she saw an adult snatch an orb just as a child was reaching for it.
The crowd continued its trend of growth, as several people remarked about the number of people at the parks.
“It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Mulcahy said.
Lorinda Kay, program manager for the organizing Langley Main Street Association, said she spoke with people prior to the event’s start and found they traveled from across Western Washington.
“People came from Gold Bar, Lake Stevens, Seattle,” Kay said. “There is a whole group from Oak Harbor.”
That news represented successful marketing efforts for the association and the Langley Chamber of Commerce, which had promoted the scramble on the main page of its website for months.
Back in the town’s main business district along First and Second streets, people walked through town on the sunny afternoon. They didn’t have to worry about icy sidewalks or stairs to Seawall Park, thanks to Callahan McVay who got deicer salt from the city to spread across the slick, steep accesses.
McVay, who owns the hot shop Callahan’s Firehouse on Second Street, was busy after the event signing certificates of authenticity to the hundreds of floats and wishing stone gatherers. Business boomed for McVay. One of his employees said Monday they were handling orders all day.
“It was super busy,” Mikayla Schumacher said. “It was me wrapping non-stop.”
Next year, said Kay, the organizers would likely give children at the main scramble area a few minutes to search on their own before being joined by adults or being removed from the park.