The Joe's Pond Ice-Out Contest began in the 1980s.
The Joe’s Pond Ice-Out Contest began in the 1980s.  (photo courtesy of Scenes of Vermont)

 

The ice on Joe’s Pond in West Danville is nearly three feet deep this year. Similar to other lakes and ponds in Vermont, the harsh, cold, and long winter has kept Joe’s Pond frozen for months. Now that spring is here (well, sort of), all eyes are on Joe’s Pond to see when the ice will finally begin to melt.

The Joe’s Pond Ice-Out Contest is an annual tradition that marks the beginning of the spring thaw in Vermont. The premise is simple: win thousands of dollars by predicting the date and time when a cinder block — perched on a pallet and connected to a clock – falls through the ice.

Locals who owned camps and cottages around the 390-acre pond used to wager guesses on when the ice would go out. In 1988, residents took it a step further and the Joe’s Pond Ice-Out Contest was born.

During the first year of the contest, a few hundred people participated. In 1990, 1,500 tickets were sold. These days, the contest receives more than 12,000 entries each year from people across the globe.

The last three ice out dates were April 24, 2013 at 8:46 a.m.; April 8, 2012 at 5:25 p.m.; and April 27, 2011 at 10:17 p.m..

It’s anyone’s guess when the ice will go out this year.

“Much will depend on whether our weather continues this present warming trend or goes back into a deep freeze after the weekend,” says Jane Brown, co-chair of the Ice-Out Contest. “Locals predict we may still have ice in June, unless we get instant summer in April.”

April 1 is the last day to purchase tickets for the 2014 contest. Tickets can be purchased online or at a variety of local businesses. The winner typically receives about $5,000, and the rest of the money raised helps pay for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration at Joe’s Pond.

A flag and pallet will be placed on the ice this weekend. A clock and the pallet are monitored by web cameras, which can be viewed anytime by visiting the Joe’s Pond website.

So, when do you think the ice will officially go out on Joe’s Pond? At this rate, I just hope it’s before the big fireworks display on Independence Day.

**If You Go: Joe’s Pond

4 Comments

  • Very cool tradition I think. I’ve wagered a guess a few times in the past – not even close!

    • Thanks for the Joe’s Pond story, idea, Scott! It is such a great tradition, and it’s amazing they receive about 12,000 entries per year. Incredible! Hope all is well. Looks like spring is finally here!

  • I love these traditions tied into nature!
    On Winnipesaukee there is much speculation about when ice-out will be, but I don’t think they have a contest. On Winni, “Ice-Out” occurs when the ice melts enough to allow the M/S Mount Washington cruise ship to navigate between Alton Bay, Center Harbor, Weirs Beach, Meredith and Wolfeboro.
    “The date has been observed and recorded for over 120 years. The setting of the exact date and time is non-scientific and is now determined by an observer in a small plane from Emerson Aviation that flies over the lake several times a day. When the pilot makes the Ice-Out call it is considered official.” (www.winnipesaukee.com)

    • Hi Margs — That’s interesting, I didn’t realize a pilot makes the call on Winni’s ice-out. I’m sure everyone in NH and Vt is eagerly awaiting the arrival of warmer weather and the spring thaw. Feels like it’s finally on its way :)

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