FAIRBANKS — Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
Hear that? It’s the Nenana Ice Classic clock ticking, and it doesn’t look like it will be long before there’s a winner in Alaska’s version of the lottery.
Each year, thousands of people pay $2.50 per ticket to guess the date and exact time the Tanana River ice will go out in Nenana, a small town on the Parks Highway 55 miles south of Fairbanks. The winning time is determined when a tripod planted on the ice in March moves far enough to stop a clock connected on shore.
Those who guess the winning date and time split the jackpot, which this year is a record $338,062.
“It’s going to happen quite soon,” Ice Classic Manager Cherrie Forness said Tuesday by phone from Nenana.
The Nenana River went out on Thursday and the ice on the Tanana River typically goes out a week to 10 days after the Nenana starts flowing, Forness said.
The section of river where the tripod sits is still solid ice from bank to bank, the water is open about three-quarters of a mile downriver, and open water lines are on both banks about the same distance upriver, she said.
Organizers hooked up the clock on Sunday, and it will be guarded 24 hours a day by a crew of three watchmen until the ice goes out.
This year’s winning breakup time is on the late side. The most common breakup dates in the 94-year-old Ice Classic are April 29-30.
Last year, the ice went out at 9:06 a.m. Alaska Standard Time on April 29. There were three winning ticket holders who split a jackpot of 279,030.
All of this year’s guesses have been entered in the computer and workers are double-checking them to make sure they have been entered correctly, Forness said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.