The Mt. Eccles Elementary second grade class holds the Iceworm Festival banner during the parade on First Street on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times 
The Mt. Eccles Elementary second grade class holds the Iceworm Festival banner during the parade on First Street on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times 

Cordovans gathered on Saturday, Feb. 3 to celebrate the culmination of another jubilant Iceworm Festival. The 64th annual Iceworm parade began at 1 p.m. on First Street beginning at the Masonic building and ending at the Pioneer Igloo. Spectators enjoyed cold, clear weather throughout the event.  

The Iceworm Festival was held during a stretch of welcomed weather thanks to particularly cold and clear days. Thermometers around town read well below freezing for the majority of the week and many cities took the opportunity to enjoy favorite seasonal activities, such as skating on Lake Eyak and exploring Sheridan Glacier.  

During the parade the temperature dipped to 15 degrees despite the winter sunshine. The cold weather provided ample opportunity for Cordova to flaunt its best winter fashions, such as large fur hats, beloved vintage wool coats, and embroidered mittens.  

Parade spectators were also kept warm by the variety of food options offered on First Street during the parade. Steve Leppert and volunteers from the Saturday Soup Program provided free hot dogs hot off the grill. Across the street, Cordova high schoolers served hearty soups as a fundraiser for the annual Close-Up Program. Several hot cocoa stations outside of Cordova Valley Telecom and the Salvation Army building kept hot beverages in hand throughout the event.   

The parade is also a time to honor Cordovans who demonstrate leadership and exemplary citizenship. Cordova’s Citizen of the Year Award was bestowed on Debbie Collins in recognition of her commitments to community — both professionally and personally. Collins was traveling and although not physically present, many spectators cheered her name in show of support during the announcement. Young leadership was honored as well during the parade as the winners of the Miss Iceworm pageant rode atop the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department engine — the crown going to Jhereyl Itliong. Anika Jensen and Arianna Ryan were first and second runners up. All three young women will receive a scholarship.  

Floats decorated in this year’s theme, Pre-ice-storic, featured scenes of dinosaurs, cavemen, and volcanos. The winner of the float competition was the Native Village of Eyak with the Mount Eyak Ski Area and Cordova Community Medical Center as runners-up. The parade finale was much anticipated and welcomed the Iceworm itself. As always, children who wish to participate gather to form the legs of the legendary worm. This year, the Iceworm had many pairs of eager feet to help on the journey down the street. After a slight technical difficulty toward the back of the body, during which the tail was left behind, the worm made its grand procession to rounds of applause.  


The week ended in a display of fireworks in the harbor. Due to the lack of darkness during the Fourth of July, the Iceworm firework display stands as the largest enjoyed by Cordova each year. This year the fireworks were set off from a new location at the north harbor fill lot. They are typically released from the harbor breakwater but were moved this year to accommodate the south harbor rebuild equipment. The harbor rebuild project also affected the ability to host the survival suit races, which didn’t move ahead this year due to lack of available space to safely conduct the contest.   

The days leading up to the parade this year were marked with various activities around town. Events and competitions included the annual Iceworm tail scavenger hunt, the sports tournaments, cake baking competition, disco skiing, powderhouse ping pong, and more.  

Cathy Sherman was drawn as the winner of a pair of Alaska Airlines tickets from the Treasure Chest raffle and team Jim Stars came out on top of the Bidarki Basketball Tournament. Anne Farbman won the very first Adult Spelling Bee at Copper River Brewing after correctly spelling the word “flibbertigibbet.” There were many winners during the annual paper plane contest early in the week, but Tanner Lohse walked away with the grand prize of a stand-up paddleboard.  

Since 1961 the festival has celebrated the warm spirit of community during the damp days of late winter.

This story originally ran in the Feb. 9 issue of The Cordova Times.