Frank Akey has been named Grand Marshall of the 2012 Iola Winter Carnival.
He is being honored for his many years of volunteerism for the Iola Winter Sports Club (IWSC).
For over 45 years, Akey has been “flipping burgers” in the food stand on Norseman Hill at the IWSC Complex.
“I have never been a member (of IWSC),” he said. “I just work there. I have done it forever.”
“They ask, and they need help, so I give it to them,” he explained. “We always have a good time doing it, too – I make sure of that.”
“Anyone who’s up there (at the ski hill) knows what I do,” he added.
The food stand only exists during the Iola Winter Carnival ski jumping events. It is set up in the storage garage between the clubhouse and the hill.
“They pull out all the grooming equipment and make it kind of a warming shed for the jumpers and the spectators,” Akey said.
The Iola Winter Carnival ski jumping events would not be the same without Akey and his crew.
Food stand volunteers have included the likes of Roger Olson, Donny Wilhelm and “a couple guys from Milwaukee who come up every year.”
When the spectators really want to warm up, they order “The Frankie Akey Special,” which is a ‘slightly’ spiced-up hot chocolate.
Akey first began working at the food stand in 1967, shortly after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after serving in Vietnam.
“I started when the snowmobile races were held up there and I just continued with the ski hill,” he recalled.
When it came time to build a new scaffold at Norseman Hill, the IWSC called on Akey, who had worked as a mason contractor for 25 years. Apparently no one else wanted the complicated job of pouring the concrete base for the big jump.
Again, Akey intended to volunteer his time, but “it was too big of a job – I had to have help,” he recalled.
“There’s a lot of concrete under that thing,” Akey said. “It will stand for a long time.”
Akey was born and raised in Iola. His son, Scott, lives in South Carolina, and his daughter, Lisa Boutwell, lives in Iola.