NENANA (AP) -- The record $335,000 Nenana Ice Classic jackpot will be shared by 18 lucky ticket holders who correctly guessed when the ice went out on the Tanana River.
The siren sounded Monday at 10:47 a.m. Alaska Standard Time, sending the town's residents to the riverfront to get a look.
The 18 ticket holders who guessed correctly will receive about $18,000 each, said manager Cherrie Forness said. A little over half of the year's total take is divided among ticket holders, with the rest used for operating expenses and charitable contributions.
The Nenana Ice Classic is Alaska's oldest lottery and signals spring breakup in Interior Alaska. The exact time of breakup is determined by a wooden tripod, wired to a clock, that's placed in the middle of the frozen river. When the ice breaks, the tripod travels downriver, tripping the clock to mark the official time.
This year, 314,000 tickets were sold at $2 per ticket between Feb. 1 and April 5. No local Nenana residents were listed among the winners, Forness said, but all were Alaskans.
Phones in the Ice Classic office were ringing Monday as people called to check the exact time the tripod had tripped and moved downriver 100 feet to stop the clock.
Among the winners were several Fairbanks-area residents, including Dave Wasson of North Pole. Wasson, an office manager of Consolidated Freightways, received a call from the contest's organizers Monday afternoon.
''I didn't even remember putting that time down,'' Wasson told The Fairbanks News-Miner.
Wasson, who has played the classic for 12 years but never won, plans to use the money to pay bills and help his children attend college. Previously, he had been in pools, but this year he bought 50 tickets alone.
Paul Rossow, who works for the borough transportation department, learned of his big win from a message on his answering machine at work.
''I believed from the beginning I was going to win,'' said Rossow, who bought Ice Classic tickets for the first time and on his own, not in a pool. ''It was blind faith.''
He said he'd probably put his winnings toward a new car, but fully intended to ''donate some to Ivory Jack's'' in a Monday night celebration.
Barbara Bluekens decided to break a trend with her winnings.
''Any time I win any money I've always paid bills,'' she said. ''I'm not doing that this time.''
The 66-year-old grandmother of 16 wants to buy gifts for her family and do some traveling with her husband, Tom. The Bluekens purchased 10 tickets this year. She was listening for winning information on the radio Monday morning but gave up.
Not long after that, Forness called to give her the good news. ''I couldn't believe it,'' Bluekens said. ''Just a lucky guess.''
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