FILE - In this April 12, 2012 file photo, a red flag is whipped by wind on a tripod sitting on the frozen Nenana River on, in Nenana, Alaska. The tripod serves as the basis for Alaska's biggest guessing game, with people buying tickets to guess when the ice will give out and the tripod will fall into the river. Some states have a lottery. In Interior Alaska, it's the Ice Classic, the annual guessing game of when the Tanana River ice goes out. The spring tradition is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

FILE - In this April 12, 2012 file photo, a red flag is whipped by wind on a tripod sitting on the frozen Nenana River on, in Nenana, Alaska. The tripod serves as the basis for Alaska's biggest guessing game, with people buying tickets to guess when the ice will give out and the tripod will fall into the river. Some states have a lottery. In Interior Alaska, it's the Ice Classic, the annual guessing game of when the Tanana River ice goes out. The spring tradition is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Nenana Ice Classic celebrates 100 years

  • By AMANDA BOHMAN
  • Monday, March 21, 2016 11:14pm
  • News

FAIRBANKS — One of the best days of Joe Dinkins’ 73 years alive is when he won the Nenana Ice Classic 10 years ago.

“I got a lot of gifts that day,” the Fairbanks barber shop owner said. “I got flowers. I got bigger tips that day.”

Some states have a lottery. In Interior Alaska, it’s the Ice Classic, the annual guessing game of when the Tanana River ice goes out. The spring tradition is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.

Dinkins won $33,812.50 — he still remembers the sum — which he spent last year when he built a new house. He split the $270,500 jackpot with seven other winners.

“I was happy as a bug in a rug,” he said. “I never won nothing big other than that.”

The guessing started in 1916 when surveyors for the Alaska Railroad bet each other when the ice would go out. Thousands of people have shared in the annual jackpots, which began at $800 and now soar above $300,000.

The contest is open to anyone and costs $2.50 per guess until April 5. Typically, 275,000 to 290,000 guesses are reportedly made.

Patricia Thurman of North Pole has played every year since the late 1980s. She buys her tickets in a pool with two former colleagues at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District even though the trio is long retired.

“We do it for fun,” Thurman said.

Thurman doesn’t consider herself the gambling type, she said. She might play some pull-tabs once in awhile. Her guessing technique is to base her guesses on birthdays and anniversaries in her family.

“I just try to scramble these numbers up until they make sense,” she said.

In 2007, she shared the $303,272 jackpot, winning about $3,300 after dividing it among 21 other winning tickets and then dividing it with the others in her pool.

She remembers how excited she was the day she won — so excited that she provided her library card number to the Ice Classic organizers instead of her social security number, she said. She called her parents and her sisters with the good news.

Thurman said she doesn’t remember what she did with the winnings.

“I’m sure I saved it,” she said.

More in News

Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. With less than two weeks to go before Alaska’s Aug. 16 election, the three candidates seeking to temporarily replace Congressman Don Young in Alaska’s U.S. House seat have made clear their positions on abortion. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Here’s where Alaska’s U.S. House candidates stand on access to abortion

Palin and Begich oppose congressional efforts to guarantee abortion rights, Peltola supports abortion access

The Sterling Highway crosses the Kenai River near the Russian River Campground on March 15, 2020, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Russian River Campground to be closed until June 2023 beginning next week

Resurfacing and reinforcement work will occur along about 1 mile of the Russian River Campground Road

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hikers rescued near Cooper Landing

They became trapped in a steep ravine after taking a canoe over Kenai Lake and climbing a mountain, troopers say

Vials of empty monkeypox vaccines sit at a table at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Daniel Kim/The Seattle Times via AP)
State announces two-tiered system for monkeypox vaccine

Due to low availability, the monkeypox vaccine is administered only in response to potential exposure

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, leads an informational town hall about ranked choice voting inside the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Carpenter holds forum on ranked choice voting

Don’t “overthink it,” representative says

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

Most Read