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The 2022 Kuskokwim Ice Classic has begun

Eric Whitney chose this year's color palette to represent Ukraine.
Olivia Ebertz
Eric Whitney chose this year's color palette to represent Ukraine.

An early sign of spring has arrived in Bethel. The Kuskokwim Ice Classic Tripod has been installed on the Kuskokwim River, and Kuskokwim Ice Classic tickets are available online. The tripod went up on April 11, and the ice was already degrading.

“It was about 3 feet a couple days ago when we put the tripod up. However, the integrity of the ice is very, very poor. It's really mushy, crumbly, needle-ey,” said Michelle DeWitt, the executive director of Bethel Community Services Foundation (BCSF), the organization that runs the Kuskokwim Ice Classic.

BCSF sells tickets for the Kuskokwim Ice Classic statewide. People can sign up to guess the date and time of day that the ice will go out on the river on the Kuskokwim Ice Classic website, or call their phone lines starting April 11. Those who win will split a pot of money, and it’s usually a pretty good haul. Last year’s three winners split the jackpot of $20,945.

And, per state law, some of the profits from the ticket sales must go to a good cause. The proceeds are donated to different local groups each year. This year, the beneficiaries are: Teens Acting Against Violence, the Y-K Delta Lifesavers, Bethel Friends of Canines, and the Bethel Regional High School Student Council.

DeWitt said that this is the first year in the Kuskokwim Ice Classic’s more than 40-year history that people can’t buy paper tickets. During the first year of the pandemic, ticket sales moved mostly online and over the phone. Few paper tickets have been sold in recent years, so this year they dropped paper tickets completely.

And that’s not the only thing that’s different about the Kuskokwim Ice Classic in recent years. The tripod is now a scaled down, lighter weight version of its former self. The old tripod had become a handful. It was cumbersome and required heavy equipment to transport onto the river. And then one year, it went out with the ice.

“One year, recently, we weren't able to save it. And we decided to build an easier version. And so Eric [Whitney] made some revisions. And we still wanted to do something unique and different that's kind of artistic out on the river,” said DeWitt.

Whitney has been building the tripods for the last decade or so, or at least he thinks so. It’s been so long now that he doesn’t remember when he started.

“The one from last year ended up downriver, or the ocean, or in Russia. Who knows?” said Whitney.

And if someone finds this year’s tripod washed up on a beach somewhere in Kamchatka in June, they may make note of the yellow and blue color palette.

“I was kind of thinking of Ukraine in doing that,” said Whitney.

He added that yellow and blue together make green, which is the ultimate sign of summer in Bethel.

Click here to buy your Kuskokwim Ice Classic Tickets. Phone sales open on April 18.

Olivia Ebertz is a News Reporter for KYUK. She also works as a documentary filmmaker. She enjoys learning languages, making carbs, and watching movies.
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