Nenana Ice Classic


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Nenana Ice Classic

Late February
Alaska's oldest tradition, a legal game that allows people to bet on when the massive ice cover on the Tanana River will break up. The Classic is kicked off in late February in Nenana (which has a population of about 570) with a winter carnival known as Tripod Days. At this time, a 1,500-pound spruce tripod is set into the ice of the Tanana River with a rope leading to a watchtower and clock. Two to three months later when the ice starts to move, a siren will sound, and when the tripod has moved 100 feet downstream, a meat cleaver stops the hands of the clock. This becomes the official time of the breakup. This setup of tripod, tower, clock, and cleaver has been the same since 1936 and has never failed.
Throughout Alaska, people place $2.50 bets in red gas cans with their predictions on the month, day, and hour of the ice's breakup. In early April, Nenana residents collect and sort the tickets. The earliest breakup ever recorded was April 20, 1940, at 3:27 a.m., and the latest May 20, 1964, at 11:41 a.m.
Wagering on the Nenana River ice began informally in 1906 when Jimmy Duke, owner of a roadhouse on the banks of the Tanana, started wagering with his chum Adolph "Two Cord" Nelson on the breakup day. In 1913, railroad engineers surveying the site for a bridge got in on the betting, and a pool started. In 1917, they started keeping records, and that year has been marked as the first official year of the Nenana Ice Classic. Now it's part of Alaskan lore, and the red betting cans are sometimes called the first spring flower. In 1990, 152,000 tickets were sold, and after deductions for taxes and expenses, the purse was $138,000. In 2000 the jackpot was worth a record-breaking $335,000.
CONTACTS:
Nenana Ice Classic
P.O. Box 272
Nenana, AK 99760
907-832-5446; fax: 907-832-5888
www.nenanaakiceclassic.com
References in periodicals archive ?
The Nenana Ice Classic, one of the world's most precise indicators of the effects of global warming (the other is my rheumatism), is bet on every year by tens of thousands of Alaskans who love the thrill of a punt, win or igloos.
In October 2001, Sagarin co-authored a study documenting spring's early arrival in Alaska based on the Nenana Ice Classic -- a popular betting contest that offers prizes for predicting the time ice will break up on the Tanana River.
These include things like the Canned Salmon Classic, Mercury Classic, Rainfall Classic and the Nenana Ice Classic.