Glass Float Project attracting people from all over the country this year
It’s difficult to tell how a marketing campaign is going. Or is it? Block Island Tourism Council Director Jessica Willi has been experimenting with a service
that tracks the council’s internet ads and then can determine if the person has subsequently visited the island or a shop or restaurant here.
“It’s big-brother-watching-you technology,” said Willi, but works only if the person’s location tracking is enabled. In this spring’s advertising campaigns, there have been “70 conversions,” she said, meaning 70 people who saw an ad, then subsequently visited the island. “That’s a technology I was testing – just to see.”
Tourism Council member Neal Murphy, who bought the Old Town Inn a couple of years ago said he asks all his guests how he heard about the island and most answered that they couldn’t remember ads, but learned about the island, especially recently, from the CBS Sunday Morning piece on the Glass Float Project, or from pieces on Mary Donnelly that have resurfaced since her death.
The CBS piece seems to have brought many to the island for the first time. John Cullen said he had met people from Oklahoma and Virginia who saw it and said to themselves, “we have to go there.”
Thea Monje, who also has a store on the island said there were people coming to the island for the first time to look for floats and are “already booking a place for the fall.”
Willi said the float story was just like weddings – people come that had never been to the island and immediately want to return.
But is the number of people searching for floats too high? Cullen questioned the adverse impact it may be having on trails.
Willi said that through social media, she tries to remind people not to “weed-whack” the vegetation with hockey sticks or golf clubs as they search for floats. She said that the annual hunt had started for the year and got off to a good start.
At the Block Island Land Trust’s meeting on June 9, some members and employees of the island’s conservation groups were bemoaning the impact of the Glass Float Project on the trails. Due to its success, more people are using the trails than ever and they are experiencing wear and tear. Even the flat spots are experiencing erosion said Scott
Comings of The Nature Conservancy. Floats were first hidden for the year in early June, and they will continue to be hidden throughout the summer and fall so visitors later in the season may have a chance to find them. As soon as they were hidden, reports began flowing into the Glass Float Project group Facebook page of found “orbs.”
The Glass Float Project was started by glass blower Eben Horton, who owns the Glass Station in Wakefield, R.I. in response to the recession that started in 2008. Usually, 550 floats, plus the number of the year (this year 22) are hidden in any given season.
They are all signed and numbered, and the one bearing the number one is very special. In the beginning, number one had gold leaf on it. In 2020, it was a model of the corona virus, and in 2021 it was a lobster buoy.
There are some rules, both for hunters and hiders. Floats are hidden on trails and along beaches, but never in the dunes. On trails, they will be within one to two feet of the trail, so there’s no need to “weed-whack” with a stick. Often they are in trees, so look up.
Floats are not hidden in the cemeteries, nor are they hidden in stone walls in such a way as to cause one to take apart the wall to find one.
If you have found a float, you are asked to register it on the Tourism Council’s website: Blockislandinfo.com.
These rules are designed to minimize any damage caused by people searching, and should be followed by anyone re-hiding a float.
For the uninitiated, who wonders why on earth one would re-hide a float: rule number one is keep only one. Per person, per season, that is. It is perfectly acceptable
to say, find a clear orb early in the season and replace it with a colored one found later on. And people have reported it is just as much fun to hide a float as to find a float.