Late payout predicted at Nenana Ice Classic

FAIRBANKS — The person who runs Alaska’s biggest annual guessing game predicts a late outcome this year.

Cherrie Forness manages the Nenana Ice Classic, a contest to see who can guess when the ice will give way on the Tanana River in the tiny community of Nenana, about 55 miles south of Fairbanks. The game is a hugely popular form of wagering in Alaska and draws entries from across the state and elsewhere.

Forness says the ice on the Tanana River measured 50.3 inches Monday. That, combined with cold weather this month, is leading her to speculate that the ice might break up late this year, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“Everything is as solid as it can be,” Forness said of the ice conditions.

The ice “went out” last year on April 23, and Tommy Lee Waters of Fairbanks was the sole winner.

People from across the state pay $2.50 a guess to predict when the ice goes out on the river. A tripod is set up on the ice, and the game is over when the tripod tips on the shifting ice and stops a clock.

Last year’s classic produced a record jackpot of $350,000.

Ice classic officials will continue to measure the ice twice a week as long as it’s safe.

Forness said preliminary ticket sales look good but might be down slightly. She drove around the state last week to pick up tickets.

“I don’t think they’re quite as good as last year, but they’re still good,” said Forness, who has been the classic’s manager for 17 years.

Half the tickets sales go to the jackpot, and the other half go to contest costs and donations for local businesses.

The jackpot amount will be announced following a board meeting April 26.


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