Sea Float Scramble to blow through town

Annual tradition geared toward kids and visitors

Look out for fast-moving kids on a mission Saturday.

They’ll be dashing toward Seawall Park with an eye out for small glass sea floats.

Once again, Langley plays host to its annual free Sea Float Scramble where adults get to place colorful, glass orbs in bushes, trees, rocks and sands and children race around finding them.

At 11 a.m. comes the countdown for kids of all ages to rush down to Seawall Park and scramble around. A second scramble for youngsters 5 years old and under, as well as for those who need easier access, is at Langley Park at Second and Anthes Avenues.

“We don’t really hide them,” said glass artist Callahan McVay, “because we want kids to find them in obvious places and not break them.”

McVay is owner of Callahan’s Firehouse Studio and Gallery, located in Langley’s old firehouse on Second Street. With more than 3,000-square-feet of space, McVay leases the space from the city.

Glass of all shapes and sizes shine in the sun around the building. Inside the huge space, 2,000-degree fires shape glass while the colorful creations are displayed in dazzling arrangements. Snowman, sea stars, fish and Christmas ornaments, Callahan’s stocks seasonal glass creations and all kind of creatures as well as beautiful glass tumblers, bowls and vases.

He also offers sessions of glass-blowing for $95 per person.

Sponsored by Langley Main Street and Callahan’s Firehouse, the Sea Float Scramble was conceived about eight years ago to help bring people into Langley during the slower times right after the holidays.

It began with a couple hundred people in 2012 and about 100 floats.

McVay originally hatched the idea and it was held in early in the morning the first year. It was moved to 11 a.m. when more restaurants and stores were open so people could eat and explore after the glass hunt. In 2013, Langley Main Street Association began managing the event.

“It’s based on the barn yard scramble we used to have at the fair,” said McVay. “There’s a specific script for it. It’s a promotional event as well as an economic development event.”

Langley Main Street Association records attendance and visitors by zip codes. The event is advertised widely off island.

“The event and sea floats grew to 300 in 2014, along with more people in attendance,” said Michaleen McGarry, executive director of Langley Main Street Association. “By 2016, the float count was up to 500. And by 2018, the total sea floats hidden in plain sight doubled to 1,000.”

Last year, volunteers tallied more than 900 participants with approximately 35 percent coming in from off island, McGarry said.

“I think it’s gotten to maximum capacity,” McVay commented. “I don’t think there’s enough space in that little park for any more floats.”

Callahan’s Firehouse supplies the sea floats at wholesale pricing, $10 a piece. The event is funded via Langley Main Street Association funds and City of Langley tourism funds.

McVay studied at the Pilchuck Glass School, located in Stanwood, and the Pratt Fine Art Center in Seattle. He’s also traveled internationally, studying in glass studios throughout the world.

McVay further developed his skills and then created a home studio in Clinton in 2000. He will celebrate 10 years in July the setting up of a flaming glassblowing business in an old firehouse.

Although the scramble takes place the first Saturday in January, it’s spring and summer time when the magic making of blown glass floats happen.

During the busy tourist season, sea floats are created whenever there’s time.

“When we are demonstrating in the summer time, we make sea floats and during any kind of idle time,” McVay said.

Then the floats are carefully packed away to wait for a cold winter’s day and the warm hand of a delighted child.

The mad dash from the mass start of the 2017 Sea Float Scramble. (File photo)

The mad dash from the mass start of the 2017 Sea Float Scramble. (File photo)

To make glass that floats requires a pair of strong lungs. Callahan McVay turns a blob of very hot glass into a bubble using the traditional glassblowing method. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

To make glass that floats requires a pair of strong lungs. Callahan McVay turns a blob of very hot glass into a bubble using the traditional glassblowing method. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

A clear bubble of a sea float before it swirls in color.

A clear bubble of a sea float before it swirls in color.

Callahan’s Firehouse also makes hundreds of small glass “wishing stones” that are given away during the Sea Float Scramble.

Callahan’s Firehouse also makes hundreds of small glass “wishing stones” that are given away during the Sea Float Scramble.

Sea floats on display at Callahan’s Firehouse Studio and Gallery.

Sea floats on display at Callahan’s Firehouse Studio and Gallery.

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