NENANA - The Nenana Ice Classic tripod is back on the ice again.
Several hundred people gathered Sunday near the Tanana River to watch the annual raising of the tripod, the ceremonial beginning of the annual guessing game of when the ice on the Tanana River will break up, marking the end of winter in the Interior.
At bars and in stores across the state, people pay $2.50 to guess the date and time breakup occurs.
The tripod will be wired to a clock on shore. When the ice goes out on the river in spring, the tripod topples and moves 100 feet downriver, stopping the clock.
People who guess the closest date and time of the tripod's fall win a share of the jackpot. Last year, six winners split a $305,000 pot.
The Ice Classic began in 1917 after bored railroad workers began betting when the ice would go out and they could return to work. The pot for the first Ice Classic was $800. Since then, more than $9 million in prize money has been paid out.
Money earned from ticket sales goes to civic organizations, scholarships and other causes in the city after the jackpot and expenses are paid out.
Last year, approximately 295,000 tickets were sold and the jackpot was $304,000. In 2001, the jackpot was $308,000.
Raising the tripod is the culmination of a two-day winter festival in Nenana, 55 miles south of Fairbanks, called Tripod Days.
Dennis Argall, president of the Nenana Ice Classic Committee, said he expects a typical breakup despite the record warmth so far this year.
"We could still have a winter. It's not over yet," he said.