The Ice Pool Lottery, officially known these days as the Dawson IODE Ice Guessing Contest, has been around in various forms since 1896. You can check out the statistics for all but five of the years since then at https://yukonriverbreakup.com/statistics. Those five years show the day but not the time.
The Dawson Chapter of the IODE officially took over running the event in 1940 and has managed to keep it going in spite of pandemics and other natural disasters. This year, as the last several, 5000 tickets will be sold at $2 apiece, and 50% of the ticket sales will go to the lucky winner who comes closest to picking the actual day, hour and minute when the Yukon River begins to flush clean.
This will be signaled by the movement of the tripod, placed by volunteers, which will pull on the cable attached to the clock that is mounted on the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, stopping the clock. There will be people walking the dike at all hours of the day by that time, and one of them will notify the fire hall, which will sound the siren to let the town know. No matter what time of day or night, residents will flock to the dike to watch the ice flowing away to the north, taking the tripod with it.
In earlier years part of the anticipation was the possibility of a flood. The last one was in 1979, and nothing has come close to being a danger since the dike was established in 1987. It used to be a tradition that the Robert Service School would go to the river en masse, if the fire siren sounded during the school day.
The prize will be at least $999.00, but most likely more than that. Last year, on May 3 at 5:03 PM, five people set a new record by tying for the prize, and each of them took home $884.25.
Last year was also an anomaly in that the cable broke before it could stop the clock, but fortunately there were several eyewitnesses to the event, including the Fire Chief, to establish the time. Last year COVID-19 forced the IODE to sell tickets only online at www.iodedawson.com. Outside of Dawson, that will be the case this year as well.
Upwards of 60% of Dawsonites have had two shots of the Moderna vaccine as of early March, and so tickets will be sold locally at the Bonanza Market, the Dawson City General Store, Dawson Hardware, Maximilian’s, the North 60° Gas Station, the Raven’s Nook, and Ray of Sunshine.
Tickets must be purchased by April 15 at midnight. The IODE’s portion of the profits will go to supporting local agencies and projects, one of which is a student scholarship at the Robert Service School.
While most break-up dates are in May, the latest being 1964’s May 28, the changing climate has tended to move the date to earlier in May and often in late April. April 23, the earliest recorded date, happened in both 2016 and 2019.
Panoramic photographs, taken from a view point near Sunnydale on the west bank of the Yukon, are available at https://yukonriverbreakup.com/ to show what things looked like between 2009 and 2020. n