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The festivities in Nenana got underway this weekend with the annual "Tripod Days" celebration with scores of events as well as the celebrated tripod raising on Sunday afternoon.
The weekend started early with the signup and playing of the Charlie Stevens Memorial Texas Holdem poker game at the Nenana Senior Center on Friday night.
Booths opened by 9 am the following morning at the Civics Center, and by 11 am a beadwork, “Best Dessert,” and homemade candy contest had already taken place. At 11, the First Place Poster presentation took place. This year’s 2014 Poster winner was Tammy Phillips of North Pole Alaska. She took home $500 for her efforts.
The morning was rounded out with an egg toss in front of the Civic Center, then a hula hoop contest inside.
The afternoon began with a jumprope contest, followed by a ball and rope contest. The first stage of a sled dog race began at the watchtower. The afternoon continued with a myriad of events from sack, ski, and tricycle races, bubble blowing contests, donut eating and balloon tosses. By then it was signup time for more Texas Holdem. Fireworks were set off later in the evening.
Sunday morning and afternoon were stuffed full of contests of all shapes and sizes. A Best Bread contest started things off and contests for best sweet bread, homemade quilts, parent-child look-alike, best chili, arm wrestling, grungiest Carhartts, jumprope, banana eating, and moose calls commenced.
A photo contest was followed by contests for dance, shaving the balloon, and limbo before the main event, the raising of the tripod got underway at 3:30 pm.
Warm weather and sunshine greeted the crowd of several dozen as two dozen volunteers pulled and tugged, lifting the tripod into its position in the middle of the river. A film crew from BBC stood by documenting the event for British television. After the raising, a hole was drilled in the ice to fill the foundation with water to freeze the tripod into place.
The Nenana Ice Classic has grown considerably since its beginnings in 1906, when six railroad workers placed bets on the breakup of the Tanana. Oliver Lee won the contest that first year. The classic would not be played again for 10 years. It was in 1916 that it was resurrected at Jimmy Duke’s Roadhouse and residents of Nenana were able to bet on the ice going out. The contest was opened up to Alaska and Yukon Territory residents the following year.
Last year’s prize was won by a Kenai couple, Warren and Yvonne Snow, when the ice took the tripod downstream at 3:41 pm Monday, May 20th. The Snows didn’t guess the exact time, they missed it by one minute. But, since no one guessed the exact time, being one minute off was good enough for the prize of $318,500. Last year’s break-up set a new record for the latest the ice has gone out since the contest has been in existence.
Tickets to take a guess at the time of break-up on the river can be had for $2.50 apiece and can be found throughout the state. The deadline to purchase tickets is April 5th.
Information on the Nenana Ice Classic can be seen at the event’s site here.