Ice moves, clock stops in 88th Nenana Ice Classic

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2004

ANCHORAGE - The ice moved on the Tanana River Saturday afternoon, stopping the clock for the 88th Nenana Ice Classic.

Organizers of the popular yearly game of chance said there were six correct guesses for the winning time of 2:16 p.m. AST. Organizers were busy contacting winners, who will share the $301,000 jackpot for predicting when the ice would move on the river.

"We're getting a great reaction," said ice classic manager Cherrie Forness. "Everyone is real excited and surprised."

Each winning ticket this year is worth $50,166.66, Forness said. Of that amount, 28 percent - or $14,046.66 - will be forwarded to the Internal Revenue Service, so winners will actually get checks for $36,120.

Ice classic participants pay $2.50 per guess.

A tripod erected on the ice is connected by wire to a clock on shore to detect the ice movement in Nenana, a community of 500 about 55 miles south of Fairbanks.

Organizers did not release the names of winners, but said they bought tickets in Anchorage, Juneau, North Pole and Fairbanks. One ticket was purchased at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.

Forness, who plays every year, joined a pool and bought some tickets on her own. The pool was five minutes short of the correct guess, she said, shrugging off the loss.

"It's not a big deal," she said. "Four years ago I was in a pool that was a second away from the winning minute. But seconds don't count. That was a big deal then. We were so close, yet so far away."

Several days ago, Forness predicted the ice would go out sometime over the weekend.

A large ice jam had formed about three-quarters of a mile upriver of the tripod. Ice on the Nenana River, about a half-mile downstream from the tripod, went out on Monday night and the Tanana River usually goes out within a week.

The jackpot is determined by the number of tickets sold. At least 50 percent of gross ticket sales is placed in the jackpot while another 30 percent or so covers such expenses as the cost of advertising, federal gambling stamps and wages for up to 150 two-week employees who sort tickets.

The rest of the money goes to charities or nonprofit organizations in Nenana.

2004 is the fifth year in a row and the ninth in the last 10 that the jackpot has been $300,000 or more. The record jackpot is $335,000 in 2000.

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