Alaska January 27, 2018
This 100-Year-Old Alaska Tradition Is Truly Unlike Anything Else
Only in Alaska would people bet on ice melting, but that is what we do. For over 100 years, people in Alaska have watched the river ice break up and thought about winning big. This lottery is based on when the spring thaw will melt the ice enough to knock over a tripod poised in the middle of the Nenana River in Interior Alaska. Get your tickets now to guess when spring will come. It helps to pass the long winter nights, dreaming of spring break up.
Nenana is a village on the Nenana River and along the Parks Highway, the north-south artery of the road system in Alaska.
The town has about 350 residents, many of whom work during the spring on the Nenana Ice Classic, the unique gambling event that has been a long-standing tradition in Alaska.
The Nenana Ice Classic has been around since 1917, now a charitable gaming organization. People buy tickets with guesses as to when the ice will melt and tripod will fall. The closest tickets or group of tickets shares the pot of around $250,000!
The tripod stands watch on the river, counting down the days until spring really arrives. Out there on the massive Tanana River, the tripod doesn't look that big.
As you pull into town next to the river, you start to see the scale of this device perfectly engineered for the job it is tasked to do.
Tripods are replaced when they get lost. Each year when the river breaks free, it often carries the tripod down the river until it is found by someone with a boat.
The tower is part of the system designed by a Nenana resident named Fred Mueller, long ago. The ingenious system causes a cleaver to cut a rope when the tripod gets about 100 feet down river of the tower.
Tickets are on sale from February 1 to April 5 each year, as the ice has never gone out before that. Get yours today.
There are layers of precautions to prevent tampering with the results. A live web cam and constant human watch guards make sure the contest is fair.
Nenana is a gorgeous spot to visit any time of year. If you are headed near Nenana, stop by and check out the tripod. Maybe get a ticket for the classic while you're at it, as this is a time-honored Alaskan tradition.
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Have you seen the tripod or played the Nenana Ice Classic? Tell us about it in the comments below.