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Oregon Coast Town Revisits Glory of Glass Floats

For decades, Japanese glass floats were a big find on Oregon's coastline, having drifted thousands of miles after fishing boats lost these smooth, crystalline balls, used to keep their nets afloat. It was a tradition among coastal visitors to scour the beaches for them, and many locals still adorn their cabins or porches with them. They practically disappeared in the 80's, and are extremely rare finds these days. Now, a new glass float tradition is rising on the coast, with a few artisan glass ball blowing shops showing up in the last couple of decades and creating beautiful, ingenious works of art. They come in a myriad of colors and unique designs, and are now considered one of the more treasured finds on the coast - even if you can just buy them. However, Newport - on Oregon's Central Coast - is giving visitors a chance to win these valuable catches throughout the winter.

No beachcombing in stormy weather is required to find one of these 200 luminous beauties, which are considered collectables. Each is engraved with "2006," created by the highly acclaimed Schmitz family of Pyromania Glass Studios in Newport, Lincoln City and Depoe Bay. Until January 31, 2006, several will be given away each week by various businesses around Newport. Visit one of the shops listed on www.newportchamber.

org, or on a map provided by the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce. Fill out an entry form, return it to the float display at one of the businesses on the list, and wait for the weekly drawing there (which will arrive by mail). Call 800-262-7844 for more information. The promotion is part of Newport's "value season," which features numerous lodging specials throughout this adorable town with two lighthouses. Here, you'll find the ancient Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, only used for three years back in the 1880's and open for tours. Then there's the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, sitting atop a majestic basalt headland, towering into the sky and blinking its signature flash still to this day. Other family attractions include the awe-inspiring Oregon Coast Aquarium (including its 360-degree view of the ocean from inside a glass-like tunnel), and the famed Hatfield Marine Science Center with its cutting-edge scientific research and displays for all ages. There's a legendary wine bar in the charming Nye Beach District called Blu Cork, regular wine tasting at Nye Beach Gallery, a heavily supported art scene, and the streets of that neighborhood are made up to look somewhere between America at the turn of the century and Old Europe. The district is becoming famous for its many fine cuisine choices, such as the stellar, Mediterranean-themed fine dining at April's at Nye Beach, the unique pizzas at Panini Bakery, and the family-style gourmet of Café Stephanie. Or shop until you drop at a dozen distinctive sellers of various interesting ideas for yourself or for gifts, such as the kid's clothing at Bambini at Nye Beach, surprises at Illingworth's Gifts or the global fare at Jovi.

There are dozens of places around Newport that are part of the Glass Treasures Promotion, but in Nye Beach you can find them at April's and at the Viking Cottages & Condos. In the meantime, you'll want to explore the pristine beaches of Newport - most of which are up against Nye Beach. You may still run across a real Japanese glass float that has been wandering the oceans for decades.


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