A group from the Cordova community continues in the Iceworm Parade on Eyak Lake Road, a tradition that first began in 1961 to counteract the long winter months of Alaska. Photo courtesy of the Cordova Historical Society

A couple of the “boys” were warding off the cold one night in 1961, and over classes of their favorite “anti-freeze” they discussed just what was missing in Cordova’s winter social scene.

The “couple of boys” for the record were Omar Wehr and Merle (Mudhole) Smith, and they got to wondering why other towns in Alaska had some kind of festival each year and Cordova had none. A unique event was needed, and Omar came up with the idea of the Iceworm Festival!

In this undated photo, a man collects ice worms from the glacial ice of Cordova, Alaska. These 1 centimeter long worms would often be gathered with ice picks and fried in fl our batter with crispy bacon. Photo courtesy of the Cordova Historical Society

For that first festival’s visitors, Cordova Airlines offered a one-day $15.00 round-trip special ticket, leaving Anchorage at 7:00 a.m. and returning at midnight the same day. This included transportation to and from the airport as well as a ticket to the crab feed dinner!

The annual event has continued ever since with many of the same events still taking place. A variety show features local talent, the crowning of the Iceworm Queen, the survival suit race, a grand parade, cake bake and lots of activities guarantee a fun-filled weekend.

A flyer for the “Iceworm Wiggle,” a dance originally conceived in 1937 by Marie Lysing Johnson of Juneau, Alaska. This fox trot takes its name from Mesenchytraeus solifugus, a tiny indigenous glacier worm known for swarming (and wiggling) on the ice’s surface at night. Photo courtesy of the Cordova Historical Society

Museum Memories is a weekly series about the history of the community from the Cordova Historical Society.