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FAIRBANKS - Residents of Nenana awoke Monday to find open water above and below the Nenana Ice Classic's wooden tripod, the first evidence surface ice is weakening after a cold, snowy spring.
"It's quite a change today," said tripod watcher Edna Ketzler from the window of the watchtower overlooking the tripod. She and two other people occupy the tower in shifts 24 hours a day.
The 86-year-old Ice Classic is Alaska's oldest and richest guessing game. Each year, thousands of Alaskans pay $2 a guess to try and peg the time to the minute when the tripod set up on the Tanana River will wash away. The tripod is connected to a clock in the watchtower by a tripwire, which stops the clock once the tripod moves 100 feet.
The tradition started in 1917 when bored railroad workers began betting when the ice would go out and they could return to work.
The ice on the Nenana River, which runs into the Tanana River about a quarter-mile below the tripod, went out Monday morning.