Unusual tradition sends old cars off cliff in small Alaskan town

Every year on the Fourth of July, the small town of Glacier View, Alaska sends old cars plummeting down a 300-foot cliff in an unusual celebration of the holiday.

Vehicles and other means of transportation are launched into the sky in the annual tradition. The townspeople watch from below in awe as vehicles meet their end when flying off the cliff. 

The event serves as the town’s version of fireworks since it doesn’t get dark in the summer in Alaska, according to resident Jason Arhns.

"This gives them somewhere to gather and watch something interesting and unusual happen," Arhns said.

Once cars are about to go over the cliff, a big air horn sounds and everyone freezes.

"The crowd just hangs out and when they hear the horn, everyone stops what they’re doing and looks up," Arhns said. 


(Cars loaded unto the semi-trailer after the event in Glacier View, Alaska on July 4, 2021. Credit: Arnie Hrncir)

The cars are connected to a rail system and rigged to accelerate on their own. The vehicles come off the rails sometimes and veer around uncontrollably. 

Food is available for purchase and cars begin to fly at 2 p.m. at the dramatic scene of destruction. 

The tradition started in 2005, and it’s held to honor the military, according to resident and organizer of the event Arnie Hrncir. Military members receive a standing ovation before the event as another form of recognition.

"This is just an appreciation for our military, the ones that have retired and the ones that are still active," Hrncir said. 

Residents call Hrncir when they want to get rid of their cars for the show, but the car must be running, he said. Not only does the preparation for the event start early, but a lot goes into it as well. 

"We want automatic transmissions and they need to be able to hold air in the tires. We take the antifreeze out and we take all of the glass out so none of that smears on the hillside," Hrncir explained. 

The tradition allows everyone from the town to get involved as children are encouraged to spray the cars in patriotic colors..

When the day is over, cleanup involves two semi-trailers that load the wreckage and take it to a scrapyard. Any of the parts that are still in working order get recycled and reused. 

"You’ll never know that anything happened," Hrncir said. 

This story was reported from Baltimore