Ghosts of Iceworm Past festival may be best yet

Food fair and paper airplane contest big hit during opening weekend; variety show tonight and survival suit races, parade Saturday

This year’s Iceworm Festival got off to a busy start, with basketball, dodgeball and volleyball games rocking the courts and continuing through this weekend at Bidarki Recreation Center and Mt. Eccles Elementary School.

Some 200 hungry Cordovans turned out for the annual food fair on Jan. 28, looking for respite from cooking at home, and the recent weather extremes here.

The gastronomic venue at Little Chapel Church included plates of Filipino foods – pancit, fried rice, chicken adobo and lumpia, smoked turkey legs and homemade, creamy potato salad, pelmeni and curry dumplings, smoothies, salmon curry soup, baked goods, and Pam Smith’s fry-bread doughnuts.

The new Baby Iceworm mascot made a happy, wiggly entrance and was immediately trounced on by giggling youngsters vying for the big worm’s hugs.

A cake-walk was set up for the children, with cupcakes and cookies for prizes, all baked by festival committee members.

“The food fair was a great success,” said Kelsey Appleton, the committee’s vice-president. “There was entirely too much amazing food and the kids really loved the cake-walk, especially when Baby Iceworm made an appearance. We had some trepidation over having Iceworm events the weekend before, but I think spacing it out in the community over two weekends worked great.”

The paper airplane contest, back for a second year on Jan. 29, drew twice as many participants as last year, and used up 2,000 sheets of paper.

General Communications, Inc. sponsored the high-flying competition and several other Cordova businesses donated prizes.

“The paper airplane contest had over 300 kids and adults partaking,” Appleton said.

“There were just over 2,000 planes flown! The weather was incredible and the ski hill was open, so we had some serious competition, but still, so many people came out. We had some big prizes for adults, like LifeProof phone cases and a Fitbit, as well as two bicycles generously donated by Alaska Commercial Company. Facility Contractors donated a huge number of toys, too,” she said. “It was an amazing event. We could not have been as successful without GCI as our sponsor, and without the many volunteers who helped!”

A happy surprise for residents driving down the Copper River Highway toward Cordova on Saturday was seeing the colorful Iceworm Festival banner hanging over Main Street once again.

No one is exactly sure how much time has passed since the banner last welcomed locals and visitors to the winter event, but some folks are speculating that it could be as many as 20 years.

“The new banner is actually an old banner that was just recently found,” Appleton said. “We were cleaning out our storage unit last year and came upon it. I found a photo from 20 years ago, showing the banner hanging over the highway, and I was determined to get it there again.”

Appleton said that it was too short notice to hang the banner last year, but this year, community volunteers, city and state Department of Transportation employees made it happen.

“This year Chris Bolin and Matt Garner volunteered their time. They borrowed the harbor’s Man Lift, and we got permission from the State DOT and city of Cordova to hang it! Now that they’ve done it once, we know we need two Man Lifts to get it higher and tighter, but I could not be happier with it this year,” Appleton said.

Festival events continue throughout the weekend: The Iceworm Variety Show is tonight at 7 p.m., featuring various local acts, the crowning of Miss Iceworm Queen and the announcement of the Citizen of the Year.

On Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. there is a sourdough pancake breakfast at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, a prayer and dedication at the Fishermen’s Memorial at 9:30 a.m., the arts and crafts show, and cake baking competition at the old library at 10 a.m., the survival suit races on G-float in the harbor at 10:30 a.m., and street food vendors and the Iceworm Festival Grand Parade at 1 p.m., followed by more food, fun and games throughout the afternoon and evening.

For a complete listing of activities, see the festival’s Facebook page at, check out the schedule in this week’s Cordova Times, or pick up a printed schedule from local merchants.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.