NENANA — The 2021 tripod is now standing.
A crowd of volunteers gathered on the ice of the Tanana River on Sunday, pulling on a long rope to help hoist the iconic black-and-white tripod to a standing position.
Trenches had already been cut into the river ice to provide a secure base for the tripod. Volunteers manned ropes on either side to help lift the center into position. Then, the side legs of the tripod were moved into position. Jeff Mayrand, who constructs the tripod every year, climbed a ladder and nailed the legs into place.
This was the main event for Nenana’s Tripod Days, commemorating the 104th year of the Nenana Ice Classic. This annual guessing game predicts when the Tanana River ice will break up at the city of Nenana.
It was started in 1917 when railroad engineers bored with the long winter, bet a total of $800 to guess when the ice will go out.
Red-colored cans are distributed statewide, now through April 5. For $2.50 per ticket, anyone can guess the exact month, day, hour and minute that the ice will go out.
The ice will be measured regularly and was reported to be 44 1/2 inches thick on Sunday.
Normally Tripod Days is a two-day celebration, filled with community events from bubble gum blowing to pickle-eating and limbo contests. But the coronavirus pandemic curtailed the celebration this year, limiting Tripod Days to just two events.
The traditional pop scramble happened right outside the Nenana Civic Center, an event especially popular with local and visiting children. Individual soda cans from 40 cases of soda were strewn onto the icy street. Divided into age groups, children — and later even adults — scrambled to pick up as many cans as they could fit into their individual bags. There was a lot of laughter and some very focused participants.
Everyone had a different approach. The older contestants seemed to favor running and then dropping to their knees or rear ends to slide into the sea of soda. The littlest scramblers carefully focused on one soda at a time. At one point, a little boy just sighed after picking up a few cans and said, “That’s enough.”
After the pop scramble, the crowd migrated to the river. There, families of all ages squeezed in for a place at the rope to help hoist the tripod. This is a tradition for many local families — and for visitors too. There were plenty of folks visiting from Fairbanks and other communities.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.