Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Workers in Nenana are gearing up for the launch of ticket sales for the 2020 Nenana Ice Classic.

This is the annual guessing game, predicting when ice will go out on the Tanana River at the Interior city of Nenana. This has been a tradition since 1917 and beginning Feb. 1, everyone can buy a ticket for $2.50 and submit a guess. Last year’s winning pot of $311,652 went to one winner, out of 300,000 guesses.

About 20 posters were submitted for the 2020 poster contest, according to director Cherrie Forness. 

“There was a pretty good selection from all over the state,” she said.

The board of directors selects the winning poster and this year, the top poster for 2020 was created by Erin Francois of Wasilla. She received a prize of $500 and her poster will become the face of the 2020 contest.

Second place in the poster contest went to Ira Levinton of Anchorage. This artwork will become the 2020 Nenana Ice Classic pin, to add to the contest’s historical collection. He also won $200.

The Nenana Ice Classic sells those pins year round — at the office during winter months and at the Nenana Cultural Center during summer. The pins come in two sizes: $20 for the large and $15 for the small size.

It may seem early to get ready but there is lots to do before those classic red cans can be distributed statewide in time for Feb. 1 sales.

“It takes us seven or eight days to get everything ready to go,” Forness said. “We take the Bush and Southeast Alaska cans and tickets over to the post office middle of the month and send them out.

“Then we start delivering around the state middle of the month,” she added. “It takes us about 11 days.”

Ticket sales begin Feb. 1.  The weekend of March 7-8 marks Tripod Days in Nenana, when the tripod is erected and the community celebrates the occasion with a special bazaar, winter activities, and of course, raising of the tripod. The tripod is planted two feet into the Tanana River ice between the highway bridge and the railroad bridge at Nenana, just upstream from the Nenana River tributary. It is 300 feet from shore and connected to a clock that stops when the ice goes out.

Tickets are sold statewide from Feb. 1 through April 5.

This tradition began in 1917 when railroad engineers bet $800 guessing when the river would break up. Since then, more than $14 million has been paid during the more than 100 years this contest has continued.

In 2019, the tripod fell during the earliest breakup on record since the contest began in 1917. It was even more unusual because the ice went out at 12:21 a.m. Alaska Standard Time on April 14, instead of during the heat of the afternoon.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.