FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It's still anybody's guess when the ice will go out on the Tanana River. But one thing is certain. The jackpot for this year's Nenana Ice Classic is a record-breaking $335,000.
The previous record payout came in 1995, at $330,000.
Observers said the Tanana River looks more like the start of a new Ice Age than the end of winter. The ice appears so entrenched that Ice Classic officials have not yet wired the clock that marks the tripod's movement nor the siren that rouses residents when the ice goes out.
Ice Classic officials are no longer taking measurements of Tanana River ice thickness because of safety concerns, but it was 36 inches thick when last measured on April 13.
''I drove around to check the ice and nothing is gonna happen for a while,'' said Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness, at Ice Classic headquarters in Nenana on Thursday.
The ice on the Nenana River, which meets the Tanana just downstream from Nenana, also appears solid. Forness takes this as another sign that breakup and the resolution to this year's lottery is still some time away.
''Usually a week to 10 days after the Nenana goes out, the Tanana goes out,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The earliest the ice has gone out in the 83 years of the Ice Classic is April 20, in 1940 and in 1998. It held until May 20 in 1964.
Despite winter taking a long time to depart from this section of Alaska, Ice Classic's 109 employees are busy. They're counting tickets and entering names into a database so the winning name or names will be easy to retrieve when the ice finally does break up.
Workers thus far have counted 311,995 tickets sold for this year's lottery. A few more tickets are expected to come in from Ketchikan and Barrow, Forness said, but most have been tallied.
Tickets sold for $2 each, with sales closing April 5.
The committee that runs the Ice Classic set the jackpot figure at a meeting Wednesday night, Forness said. The committee also has made $60,000 in charitable contributions so far and likely will make more when all expenses are paid, she said.
The Ice Classic is a nonprofit corporation.
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