Town rigs Tanana River tripod

Nenana holds annual statewide wager on when ice will break

Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Spring's coming, and that means it's time to rig the Tanana River tripod.

John Wagner / Fairbanks Daily News Miner
John Wagner / Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Volunteers on Sunday erected the 26-foot-tall tripod on the river for the 94th Nenana Ice Classic, the popular statewide wager on when the Tanana River begins flowing again. Putting up the structure is the signature event of Tripod Days, a yearly celebration in the small town of Nenana.

When the river's ice breaks up, the tripod moves and trips a wire to stop a clock, showing the minute it happened. It costs $2.50 per guess to try to predict that time. Last year, two winners split a jackpot of nearly $284,000 after the ice moved out on May 1.

Ticket sales continue through April 5. The latest measurement, taken Feb. 18, found the ice to be 50 inches thick at Nenana.

More than 100 people carefully stood on the river ice to watch the black-and-white tripod go up, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The festival in the town of nearly 500 residents began Friday with a men's basketball tournament.

"It's a big event for this town both money-making and socially," said Aleta Geer, who works at the Nenana Seniors Center.

On Sunday, hundreds of people packed the town's Civic Center to wander among vendors selling everything from handmade hats to fry bread. There also was a banana-eating contest and a competition for the dirtiest pair of work pants.

Three Fort Wainwright soldiers showed off their trained German shepherd guard dogs, with two of the soldiers suiting up in protective gear and letting the dogs attack them.

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