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Nenana Ice Classic Offers Big Payout in Cash-Strapped Times

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- In a time of home foreclosures, layoffs and loan rejections, an unusual Alaska jackpot offers Americans on the losing end of a bitter economic cycle the chance to reverse their fortunes.

The Nenana Ice Classic isn't your average gamble. Since 1917, the contest has been paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to the lucky prognosticator who correctly guesses when the ice on the Tanana River will break up each spring. A trip-wired tripod planted two feet into the ice officially records the time. When the ice gives out, a wire connecting the tripod to a clock is triggered, stopping the clock and changing one lucky guesser's fortune.

Beginning Feb. 1, the Nenana Ice Classic's iconic red cans will collect wagers at grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers statewide. At just $2.50 per entry, the pot grows sweeter with each passing month - the 2009 total reached $283,723.

But Alaskans aren't the only ones who can win. The Nenana Ice Classic is open to anyone willing to gamble some pocket change; non-residents can mail in their bets with a check or money order. Detailed historic weather data available online at www.nenanaakiceclassic.com allow those who have never set foot in Alaska to make an educated guess.

But why not come personally to submit your entry in a red bucket and check out some of the other unusual events that keep Alaskans amused during the long winter months?

Start in Nenana for the Tripod Days festival. The event features a basketball tournament, Texas Hold'em poker championships, a biscuit-and-gravy breakfast, donut eating contest and hula hoop contest, among many other activities. (March 6-8, www.nenanaakiceclassic.com)

The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2010, was started by a group of Anchorage locals who threw a three-day party for the miners and trappers coming into town to sell their wares. The festivities include a fur auction, blanket toss, snowshoe-softball tournament, outhouse races, ice bowling, the Miners and Trappers Ball and the ultra-competitive sprint-distance Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race. (Feb. 26- March 7, www.furrondy.net)

In its 50th year, the Cordova Iceworm Festival showcases Cordova residents' talents, hospitality and sense of humor. Highlights include the annual parade, survival suit races, a variety show and the coronation of Miss Iceworm, food fair and arts and crafts show. (Feb. 5-7, www.iceworm.org)

Wrangell's Tent City Festival is an annual celebration of the Gold Rush era in Alaska's Inside Passage, and features contests, Tent City theatrical performances, a fashion show, fancy dress ball and Closest to the Pin annual Muskeg Meadows Golf Tournament. (Feb. 5-7, www.wrangell.com)

In Fairbanks, Chatanika Days features a full schedule of thrilling activities, including outhouse races, a snowmobile tug-of-war, human bowling on ice, a bucksaw contest, a long-john contest, snowshoe races and live music. (March 27-28, www.explorefairbanks.com/events)

For more winter events and festivals and to plan a trip to Alaska, go to TravelAlaska.com.

About Alaska Travel Industry Association
ATIA is a non-profit, membership-based organization comprising all facets of Alaska's visitor industry and representing over 1,100 large and small travel-related businesses. The association serves as the voice of Alaska's tourism industry and maintains the TravelAlaska.com Web site for visitors interested in the state.

Source: Alaska Travel Industry Association

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