Ice Classic inspires imaginative guesses

Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS - Some people trying for the jackpot in the Nenana Ice Classic need a calendar.

This year, there were dozens of guesses for April 31 - a date that doesn't exist.

"There's 87 people who think there's an April 31," Ice Classic manager Cherri Forness said, adding that the number was down from about 100 last year.

The Nenana Ice Classic receives hundreds of tickets each year that are nothing more than donations to the $300,000-plus jackpot for Alaska's annual springtime guessing game.

Some may have had one too many drinks at their favorite tavern before buying a ticket and writing down their guess of when the ice will melt and move enough to trigger a clock linked to a tripod on the Nenana River. Others may have been tourists who really do think the ice won't go out until July or August.

Last year, every month of the year got at least one guess, including nine for the month of July. There were six guesses each for December and October.

"Apparently they don't live here," Forness said. "At least we hope they don't live here."

Several hundred tickets won't qualify for the jackpot because they weren't filled out properly.

"No a.m. or p.m. No name. No date or time," Forness said, rattling off some of the bad ticket categories. Some were completely blank. Last year, there were about 500 such tickets

The jackpot for this year's Ice Classic is $304,000.

Last year, the ice went out on May 8, a week or so after the normal date.

This year's date is hard to predict. Ice has been thick, but heavy rain has raised the river level and the ice is "rotting," according to the Ice Classic's Web site.

Officials did hook the clock up to the tripod that sits on the ice, and watchmen are now on duty to monitor the tripod and clock 24 hours a day until the ice goes out.

The winning time is determined by a tripwire that runs from the wooden tripod to a clock in a watchtower on shore. When the tripod moves 100 feet, the wire stops the clock.

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