FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It doesn't appear this year's payout for the Nenana Ice Classic will be setting any records.
Yet winners of Alaska's annual break up lottery still will be splitting a sizable chunk of change and organizers say it won't be long before the cash register rings.
The jackpot for this year's Ice Classic stands at $308,000. That's shy of last year's record $335,000 payout but still represents the third-largest award in the event's 85-year history. The jackpot was $330,000 in 1995.
''It's still pretty good,'' Ice Classic Manager Cherri Forness said about this year's jackpot. ''I don't think anybody's going to complain.''
Thousands of Alaskans pay $2 a ticket each year to guess the date and exact time when ice on the Tanana River breaks up at Nenana, a community on the Parks Highway, about 55 miles south of Fairbanks.
A 30-foot, black-and-white, wooden tripod is anchored in the ice and is connected by wire to a clock on shore. The winning time is determined when the tripod moves far enough downriver to stop the clock.
The ice went out Thursday on the Nenana River, which flows into the Tanana River about a quarter-mile downstream from the tripod.
That means the ice on the Tanana River should start moving in about a week, Forness said.
''Generally it goes out a week to 10 days after the Nenana goes out,'' she said.
The tripod stopped the clock last year on May 1 at 10:47 a.m. (AST). There were 18 winning tickets. Each was worth $18,611.
The winning time actually is one hour earlier than the actual time because event organizers use Alaska Standard Time rather than Alaska Daylight Time.
The earliest the ice has gone out is on April 20, in 1940 and 1998. The latest breakup was recorded on May 20, 1964.
The last ice measurement, taken April 16, showed the ice was 33.5 inches thick. Some water has begun running in sloughs on the Tanana River, but the ice still appears to be solid, Forness said.
''There's a little water on the edges but nothing to speak of,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Along with serving as Alaska's unofficial lottery, the Ice Classic is a major fund raiser for Nenana. While just over 50 percent of the pot goes to the winning ticket holders, the rest is used to run the event or is donated to local charity. More than $60,000 was donated last year, Forness said.
The event was started in 1917 by engineers working on the railroad bridge across the Tanana River. Speculation about when the river ice would break up and allow them to continue working led to a betting match. The first pool was $800.
On the net:
Ice Classic's Web site: www.ptialaska.net/(tilde)tripod
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