- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The clock is ticking down on an annual Alaska rite of spring.

Cherrie Forness, manager of the Nenana Ice Classic, said Sunday ice over the frozen Tanana River at Nenana should shift soon, moving a tripod erected on the river and tripping a clock to determine who wins the jackpot in the annual guessing contest.

“It could pretty much happen any time,” Forness said of river ice breakup.

It’s the 99th year of the Nenana Ice Classic, begun when railroad construction workers first bet when ice would move on the river and boats could begin moving on interior Alaska’s primary means of transportation.

Ice Classic staff over the weekend connected the official event clock by a line to the black and white tripod erected on the river, Forness said.

When the tripod floats downstream, it disconnects the line connecting power to the clock and the official time is recorded.

The first clock watcher in a tower on shore began duty at 4 p.m. Sunday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper report (http://bit.ly/1O84z6Y) reported.

Submitting a guess costs $2.50. Tickets were sold through April 5.

The earliest the tripod has moved was 3:27 p.m. on April 20, 1940.

The tripod shifted last year at 3:48 p.m. on April 25. There were 25 winning tickets in the annual guessing game and the holders split a jackpot of more than $363,000.

A large channel of water has opened up on the south side of the bank.

The tripod is just upstream of the mouth of the Nenana River, which dumps into the Tanana. Breakup on the smaller Nenana River precedes Tanana River breakup. Ice on the Nenana River went out early Saturday morning.

Ice Classic staff are manually counting tickets and recording guesses. Sales are down from last year’s record numbers, Forness said, but it’s too early to tell by how much.

The size of the jackpot depends on the number of tickets sold.

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Online:

Nenana Ice Classic information and life webcam: http://bit.ly/1EkCXHd

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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