The Cordova Iceworm Festival
Cordova, Alaska was very sleepy and dead during the months of January, February, and March.
Even though the shortest day of the year is on the 22nd of December, it seems that with all the Christmas events and excitement, December flew by, and the darkness did not impact us as much.
One night in 1960, after one of my fire practices, which we had every Thursday night, a few of us went for coffee. They were all great guys but not ones that I really knew except related to our duties as volunteer fire men.
Being the new “kid on the block”, or the “new fireman on the team” I thought I should go. We went to a café on main street and as we were chatting the subject came up about how these winter months were a “downer” and was there anything we could do about it.
There was “Mudhole” Smith, Don and Kenny Van Brocklin, Gus Ardveson, Jack Dineen, Art Gunderson and me. Those are the guys I remember.
We needed something to liven up the town. I don't know whose idea it was or even how it came up, but we decided we needed a celebration. For one thing, we could never have fireworks on the 4th of July because we had 24 hours of daylight, so that could be the start of something, but what? We needed a parade, and knew that the high school band would be a part of it and maybe some floats of some kind.
Fairbanks had its winter dog races, Anchorage had their winter King and Queen celebration and even North Pole had their Santa Claus, but what do we have? Something about fish or crabs just did not seem to spark and then someone suggested iceworms.
We were surrounded by glaciers and two of the biggest glaciers in Alaska were “ours” just 50 miles down the only road toward the Copper River Delta, the Miles and Childs glaciers, and besides there really are iceworms.
The idea grew and how to make an iceworm became the main topic.
We all went home that night with that problem in our heads. I do not remember who came up with the idea, but we all joined in on it and by using hula-hoops and sheets we formed the body. The head was made from chicken wire with a paper-mâché dragon head painted on it. We got volunteers from the high school to be the legs, and so we had our iceworm and had our winter celebration.
“Mudhole” Smith said he would give special rates for people flying in from Anchorage. We also invited Mr. Ernie Bell, from the State Capitol, to be our special guest, to hand out awards.
We had a “penny dig” where $10.00 worth of pennies were mixed up in a huge pile of saw dust and kids dug through and could keep what money they found.
We also had a beard growing contest, and guys were fined if they did not grow a beard. It was a huge success with quite a few people flying in to join in the festivities. The parade was held on Main Street and the boardwalks were lined with people.