Updated 11:55 p.m. Wednesday
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Unless stalled by an ice jam, the Nenana Ice Classic tripod will be miles downriver by the time the names of the 22 winners divvying up this year’s Ice Classic $338,062 jackpot are announced today.
The tripod broke its icy mooring at 5:24 p.m. Wednesday Alaska Daylight Time. But the winning ticketholders had to have guessed 4:24 p.m., since guesses are made in Alaska Standard Time.
The winners will be officially notified sometime after the tickets are pulled today, Cherrie Forness, Ice Classic manager, said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
“We don’t know if the winners are pools or individuals,” she said. “We’ll pull all the tickets in the morning and then start calling people. We can’t give out the names until we talk to them.”
The value of each winning ticket is $15,366.45. This year’s record $338,062 jackpot is 51 percent of the gross ticket sales.
The remaining 49 percent of ticket revenue goes to a wide variety of scholarships, educational and charitable causes and to run the Ice Classic operation.
“Our payroll for April was almost $85,000,” Forness said.
According to Ice Classic records, this is the fifth time in the event’s 94-year history that the Ice Classic tripod went out on May 4.
Previous breakup times on the May 4 date were: 1944 at 2:08 p.m.; 1967 at 11:55 a.m.; 1970 at 10:37 a.m., and 1973 at 11:59 a.m.
Last year, the ice went out on April 29 at 9:06 a.m. Alaska Standard Time. There were three winning ticket holders who split a jackpot of $279,030.
The event dates back to 1917 when surveyors for the federal agency building the Alaska Railroad waited for open water so boats could bring up material they needed to go to work.
The popular breakup guessing game has thousands of takers buying tickets for $2.50 each.
Media coverage has stirred interest worldwide. People buy tickets through the mail and summer tourists are eager customers as well as Interior residents.
“There are teachers in the states who do science projects on the Ice Classic,” Forness said. “It’s a good thing for Alaska, a good thing for the people and a good thing for Nenana.”
Future plans for the breakup event is to have a Web cam set up next spring so everyone can watch the ice go out.
But there will have to be some changes made in state gaming regulations before Ice Classic tickets can be sold on the Internet.
Forness had business in Fairbanks on Wednesday and wasn’t surprised she missed the tripod trip the Ice Classic clock before she returned.
At 10 a.m., she took a last look before heading north on the Parks Highway.
“About 3/4 of a mile upriver, the main channel was clear with lots of rotten ice around the tripod, and the pressure of the water was cutting into the ice,” she recalled.
Forness and many others had been keeping a close eye on the ice. The quiet little town, 55 miles south of Fairbanks, always experiences a noticeable upsurge in traffic this time of year.
“There were lots of people out watching,” she said.
And everyone knows Mother Nature is in charge.
“We have no more inside information than anyone else,” Forness said. “One of the pools I was in was four minutes off.”
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.