Alaska’s favorite guessing game ends in pandemic year twist

NENANA, Alaska — The ice has gone out on the Tanana River, ending the annual Nenana Ice Classic, one of Alaska’s most famous guessing games.

Ice classic manager Cherrie Forness said the game ended at 12:50 p.m. Friday when the ice shifted and the clock inside a tripod set up on the river ice tripped.

And in this pandemic year, it’s probably no surprise that it all happened backwards, she said.

When the ice goes out, the tripod usually starts going downriver or toward the south bank. This year, it went the other direction, upriver, apparently just enough to trip the mechanism that stopped the clock.

And the tripod was still sitting in the same spot hours after the game ended instead of floating off with the river.

It’s not known how many people paying $2.50 per ticket correctly guessed the day, hour and minute the ice went out. She said they are still entering data, and it might take a week to finish that task.

This year’s jackpot is $233,591, with the winner getting 43% of that. If there are multiple tickets that chose the winning time, then those ticket holders share that percentage of the jackpot.

The event began in 1917 as a bet among railroad engineers waiting for river ice to break up. It has paid out more than $14 million in its history.

Nenana is located about 55 miles (88.51 kilometers) southwest of Fairbanks in Alaska’s interior.

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