Cordova makes cautious return to in-person events

Koplin: ‘It is time to relax protocols and get back to normal’

Cordova Family Resource Center’s annual Easter fundraiser was held at the Cordova Center. (April 3, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The April 3-4 weekend saw a guarded return to the face-to-face gatherings mainly absent from Cordova for the past 13 months.

Mayor Clay Koplin praised community health care providers and the city’s medical response team for their efforts to get the public vaccinated. As of Monday, April 5, 1,174 people in Cordova have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

“When you couple that with the work by the community to reduce our active cases back to zero again from our last mini-outbreak, and I think we can feel confident that it is time to relax protocols and get back to normal,” Koplin said.

Churches including St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and St. George’s Episcopal Church held limited in-person Easter services over the weekend. Cordova Family Resource Center hosted its annual Easter basket fundraiser, which was canceled in 2020, at the Cordova Center on April 3.

This year, the fundraiser was retooled so that baskets would be sold rather than auctioned off, in an effort to minimize foot traffic at the venue, organizers said. Additionally, some customers said they preferred the option to buy baskets outright, because it didn’t require them to bid and then return later to the venue to collect their baskets. Now, the CFRC board is discussing the possibility of making a basket sale, rather than a basket auction, the norm from this point forward, said Executive Director Nicole Songer.

The Cordova Center implemented an occupancy limit for the event, which was held in the building’s central atrium. Customers also helped the event run in an orderly fashion by willingly following masking and social distancing rules, Songer said. However, despite these precautions, CFRC had been prepared to pull the plug at the last minute if a virus outbreak was reported, she said.

Of 123 unique baskets prepared for the fundraiser, 108 were sold by the end of the event, raising almost $4,000 compared to an average of around $2,500-$3,300 for previous basket fundraisers. This was welcome news for CFRC, which is facing a possible 33% funding cut. CFRC officials testified before the Alaska House Finance Committee Friday, April 9 regarding the possible cut, which could reduce CFRC’s staff from the equivalent of 2.75 full-time employees to the equivalent of 1.25 full-time employees.

“We’d be bare-bones,” Songer said. “It would be pretty minimal, what we’d be able to do.”

Crocheted coronavirus particles were among the handicrafts sold at the April 3 Cordova Saturday Market. Crafter Nancy O’Hare suggested that they be thrown or kicked for a bit of pandemic stress relief. (April 3, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Also on the afternoon of April 3, the Masonic Hall hosted its first Cordova Saturday Market in over a year, gathering seven vendors including chocolatier Pete Hoepfner, chef Bhren Peña and crochet artist Nancy O’Hare. When event organizer Jessicca Morningstar arranged to rent the venue from Native Village of Eyak, a reduced occupancy limit of 12 persons was in place. However, after the city stepped down its public health alert level, NVE removed the reduced occupancy limit, allowing more vendors and customers to participate.

Customers at the market were generally mindful of social distancing guidelines, Morningstar said.

“I didn’t hear anybody complaining, like, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this!’” Morningstar said. “You know how the naysayers are. But I feel like everybody who came really had a good time… Everybody really had a positive energy there.”

The Cordova Chamber of Commerce also voiced its approval for a return to in-person events. The May 6-9 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, organized by the chamber in partnership with the Forest Service, Prince William Sound Science Center and other groups, is also planned to include some face-to-face activities.

“Although virtual events provided the opportunity to reach a much broader audience, they did not offer near as much direct economic impact to local businesses,” said Cordova Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Renfeldt.

The Cordova Saturday Market hopes to include more vendors in future events, Morningstar said. Vendors can contact the market via Facebook at www.facebook.com/cordovasaturdaymarket.