Some Ice Classic winners have guessed right before

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) It feels good'' to be a winner of this year's Nenana Ice Classic, says Sandy Masterfield of Palmer.

But Masterfield, 76, says she's kind of used to it. She was an Ice Classic winner before, in 1980, when she won $6,000.

She and her husband, Ernie Masterfield, who shared one of 19 winning tickets this year, were not the only ones to repeat.

John Gilcrist of Soldotna, was a 1998 winner too, said Cherrie Forsness, manager of the Classic.

How lucky!'' Forsness said. In the seven years she's been managing the 87-year-old contest, she's seen repeat winners only two or three other times, she said.

Each winning ticket is worth $15,842.11.

The ice on the Tanana River at Nenana broke apart at 6:22 p.m. Alaska Standard Time Tuesday evening, ending the annual guessing game in which Alaskans and other entrants place a bet on the actual time the ice will go out.

The 19 winners representing a total of 46 people, since five winners were pool entries had all picked the same moment and will split the overall purse of $301,000.

We'll have a lot of checks to write,'' said Forsness. The checks are to go out June 1.

The Ice Classic did not release the names of all the winners Wednesday. A few had not yet been notified, Forsness said. And the 13 employees of Alaska Airlines in Fairbanks who won on a single ticket as 13 Lucky Ice Holes Pool did not want their names released, she said.

After federal taxes, net winnings will be about $11,400, said winner John Echternacht, also of Palmer.

It was his wife, Wanda Jeanne, who bought the $2.50 tickets (up from $2 each) and put his name on them.

My wife's been buying $10 worth of tickets for over 30 years,'' said Echternacht. She won't go over $10. They went up this year, and I told her to buy $20 worth, and she said, 'Nope. I'm not going over $10.'

Echternacht, 72, is retired from the Air Force and a former civilian quality control inspector. He has no great plans for the winnings.

I'm going to sock it in the bank and see where it's needed. I'm in no hurry to ... go out and spend it,'' he said.

As for the Masterfields' winnings, most is already spent, Sandy said.

We ordered a 12-by-20 (foot) nice little storage barn, like for $5,000,'' she said. We also ordered a riding lawnmower for my husband, who needs it. We have nearly a half-acre of lawn.''

She is also planning to travel to Texas to visit their daughter, whose husband recently died from an illness.

Masterfield said she's bought Ice Classic tickets every year since I can't remember. I pray. I prayed the other night, 'Lord, let me win the Nenana ice pool this year.'

She and her first husband homesteaded years ago outside Nenana, and she knows the climate there, she said.

Usually she buys 20 tickets each year, picking times in the last part of April and the first week in May. But because this winter was comparatively mild, she selected more times in late April than usual. Her husband compensated by buying five extra tickets for choices in May.

Elizabeth Mingo of Anchorage won with her husband, daughter, granddaughter and dog on the same ticket. Her dog, Molly, a West Highland terrier, is a lucky mascot, Elizabeth said. But she also has a set of favorite numbers.

The birthday of her husband, Rick Mingo, is in June, the sixth month. Her favorite number is 22. That gave her this year's winning minute. But she also applies some local wisdom.

I was born and raised here and sort of go by the weather,'' said Elizabeth, 60. And this year we didn't have much snow. ... I figured that ice didn't have much insulation'' and would therefore go out on the early side.

She bought 25 tickets.

I'm the only one that plays it just me,'' she said. I'm just religious with it, because my mom and dad played it all the time.'' They never won, though.

The Mingos plan to spend their winnings on their yard and perhaps on a new deck, she said.

Steve and Laura Thurneau of Fairbanks plan to invest their winnings in a new business they began this year, a halibut charter out of Valdez, Laura said.

Steve, 43, was a carpenter for 23 years but suffered from a bad back, she said. His name was on the winning ticket, one of 10 he bought. Laura also bought 10.

Steve was in Valdez when he heard the winning date and time mentioned on the radio and called home, asking Laura to look up their picks.

When she read off the April 29, 6:22 p.m., choice, he said that was the winner. She said, No way. OK, I have to look again. Oh my God! There's no way!'' She was screaming.

We just picked it,'' Laura said. It just came out ... with absolutely no significance.''

Other winners named by the Ice Classic on Wednesday included Doran Ryan, Anchorage; June Moore, Sutton; Sue Fitch, Wasilla; Robert Wilson, Anchorage; and John Harvison, Fairbanks.

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