Iceout contest keeps getting bigger - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Iceout contest keeps getting bigger

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It's grown from a small contest to something bigger -- the Joe's Pond Iceout Contest. It began in 1988 with a just a few tickets being sold. On Monday that number grew to thousands.

At first glance, it seems like your typical pond, but a closer inspection reveals something unique sitting on its ice. It's the device used in the Joe's Pond Iceout Contest.

"That is a wooden pallet with a cement block, all wound together -- and a flag -- that's it," said the Iceout committee's Jane Brown.

It's critical for the Iceout contest. "It was started as a way to get rid of the winter blahs I guess, and just something to do," said Brown. 

Participants buy a ticket for a buck and try to guess the ice-out time, a time determined by the pallet's movement. "When the rope tightens up -- if the pallet moves down the lake or up the lake or sinks -- it'll tighten the rope, disconnect that little gadget -- I don't know what they call it -- and it stops the clock," said Brown. 

The contest has grown significantly through the years. Back in 1998 only a few hundred tickets were sold. But now every year thousands of people walk through these doors at Hastings Store for the Joe's Pond Iceout Contest. They're buying tickets. This year there were about 12,000 sold and now we're just waiting for a date and time. 

The winner of this year's contest is projected to win more than $5,000. The proceeds go to a good cause. "After expenses, we split 50/50. Most of that goes to the big, free fireworks display July 4," said Brown.

While a lot of ice-out contest participants buy their tickets at area vendors, some go the more modern route. "This year we made it possible to buy 10 tickets minimum online and that went very well," said Brown. 

Some folks choose their times and dates at random. Others have a more precise approach. "I always pick May 2 at 12:51 because that's when my son was born," said Jane Larrabee. 

Larrabee, whose family has owned Hastings Store for 100 years, has lots of memories related to the iceout contest. Yet one phone call really stands out. "So I told him and he was interested, and I said, 'By the way where are you from?' He said South Africa and he had called just to check up on the Joe's Pond Iceout Contest," said Larrabee. 

Stories like these show us that Joe's Pond and its iceout contest have earned quite a reputation. "The iceout has turned into something that's really a lot of fun," said Brown. 

It's fun that will continue for years to come.

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