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

Nenana Ice Classic

The deadline to enter the Nenana Ice Classic nears and speculation that the ice will go out early builds as the tripod sits atop the Tanana River ice out from the clock tower in Nenana Wednesday, April 3, 2019. The contest closes this Friday, April 5. The earliest the tripod has fallen is April 20.

Let the guessing begin.

Tickets went on sale Feb. 1 for the 2021 Nenana Ice Classic. Alas, the annual Tripod Days celebration normally held the first weekend of March, will be limited due to safety concerns over COVID.

The Nenana Ice Classic is the annual guessing game for when the Tanana River will break up and topple the tripod erected on the ice at the city of Nenana. Red-colored cans are distributed around the state from Feb. 1 through April 5. People can guess the exact month, day, hour and minute that the ice will got out. Each guess costs $2.50.

In 2020, the sole winning guess won $311,652. The ice went out at 12:21 a.m. on April 14, the earliest ever recorded in the contest’s 102-year history.

The raising of the tripod happens during Tripod Days, officially launching the Nenana Ice Classic.

“It’s really sad,” said Cherrie Forness, director of the Nenana Ice Classic. “We do this stuff because kids have a good time, people have a good time. We just didn’t want to take the risk.”

Too many of the community activities happen indoors, she said. Those include the bubble gum blowing contest, the pickle eating contest, the limbo contest and more. Usually all those events are held at the Nenana Civic Center.

Those have been canceled. Instead, on Sunday, March 7, the Ice Classic plans to hold the outdoor pop scramble for kids, the traditional raising of the tripod, and host a display of fireworks that evening.

A dog sled race was also canceled due to safety concerns on the Tanana River.

“The organizer said there were spots on the river where the trail is that he doesn’t feel are safe,” she said.

Normally, Tripod Days includes two full days of activities.

“We just got under the wire last year,” Forness said. “The very next week all this COVID was going on. I’m glad we were able to do it last year.”

Hopefully, next year, things will return to normal, she said.

Ice on the Tanana River was 34 inches thick when it was measured on Jan. 13. The next measurement will happen on Thursday.

She was surprised the ice was that thick, since January had such mild temperatures.

Proceeds from the Nenana Ice Classic also fund three scholarships for students and provide donations to the Nenana Volunteer Fire Department, Nenana Public Library and helps fund Nenana City School student trips and functions. It has supported a number of other programs as well.

It also provides employment for the 75 to 100 local residents who make up the Ice Pool. They sort thousands of tickets, bundle the tickets, document the tickets, and doublecheck and triple check the results. 


Parish theft


Thieves broke into St. Mark’s Espicopal Church’s Parish Hall in Nenana over the weekend and stole a moose hide being prepared as a pall for community funerals. A pall is a covering for a casket.

The moose hide was in the process of being beaded by community members. Thieves took the supply of beads with them.

“They took all the beads that matched what we had already done,” said the Rev. Marilyn Duggar. 

The largest piece of moose hide was eventually recovered, found abandoned on “the escape route,” Duggar said.

“We had one big piece and then some smaller pieces already cut to the size we wanted them,” she said. “We were preparing it.”

Some of the smaller pieces were recovered as well, but not all of them. Some fabric that was part of the moose hide project was also stolen, along with a roll of garbage bags.

Duggar had this bit of advice for her congregation: “Please join me in praying for this person and his or her issues that causes this kind of behavior. They are more in need of our prayer than we are of our moose hide.”

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.