A sign of spring has emerged in Bethel. The Kuskokwim River Ice Classic tripod has sprouted and bloomed on the river ice.
This year’s tripod is constructed in the shape of three, larger-than-life, 25-foot-tall flowers. Green, leafy stalks burst into enormous open blooms of orange, blue, and pink. The utilitarian structure meant to serve charitable gaming also serves as public art.
Bethel resident and Kuskokwim Ice Classic Board member Eric Whitney designed and constructed the tripod. He said that he wanted to give everyone something colorful to look at. Whitney constructed the tripod in a day and assembled it on the river on April 7.
The tripod goes up a few weeks before breakup is expected and means that boating and summer are around the corner. When the ice washes away, it carries the tripod with it, tripping a clock located on shore, marking the official time of Bethel's breakup.
Bethel Community Services Foundation uses the Ice Classic as a fundraiser. People buy tickets guessing when the clock will stop, and the money funds youth programs across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, along with thousands of dollars in prize money for lucky-guessing winners. The 2020 winner received a $12,535 jackpot.
Bethel’s earliest recorded breakup occurred on April 12, 2019, according to the National Weather Service; the latest recorded breakup occurred on June 3, 1964.
The number to buy Kuskokwim Ice Classic tickets is 907-545-8483.