Chautauqua Lake Ice Pick Contest Is Over; Ceremony To Be Held

BEMUS POINT – The Chautauqua Lake ice pick has broken through.

The ice pick went through the ice at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. Peter Sullivan, event organizer, said the winner of the contest is Brooke Sheesley.

”She was 59 minutes away. She had guessed 4:44 p.m., and it went down at 3:45 p.m.,” he said.

The ice pick was placed on the ice Jan. 26, and bets were accepted until March 10, according to the contest’s website – Around $12,000 was raised for the contest, with each guess costing $5. Sullivan said after contest expenses of $400, $11,600 was left to be split among the winners and the Chautauqua Lake Association. Sheesley will receive 25 percent of the money. The five runners-up will receive 5 percent of the pot. Tom Pembridge, Nancy Bargar, Rhoe Henderson, Bruce Erickson and Tom Calalesina were the runners-up. The remaining 50 percent will be donated to the Chautauqua Lake Association.

An awards event will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Lawson Boating Heritage Center, 73 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point, for the winners. The ice pick was located outside of the Lawson Boating Heritage Center prior to the ice melting.

The Chautauqua Lake Ice Pick contest is based on a successful Alaskan tradition. The contest is a fundraiser where people try to predict exactly what time and date the ice would break and the tripod placed on top of the ice would then fall into the lake.

The contest’s inaugural year was 2011, when $8,000 was raised to benefit the Chautauqua Lake Association. However, in 2012, due to unseasonably warm temperatures, the contest was canceled.

The idea for the event was brought back by Sullivan, who traveled to Nenana, Alaska, and witnessed an event held annually to predict when the ice breaks. The Alaskan tradition started as people awaited for the ice to break on the Tanana River, which would mean the start of supplies coming their way. Although Alaskans may not be as dependent upon the ice breaking to get supplies now, the guessing is still done.

Sullivan transformed the idea into a local fundraiser, with BOCES classes constructing the tripod that is connected to a clock to mark the exact time the ice cracks on Chautauqua Lake. In 2011, Greg Peterson won by correctly guessing 9:37 a.m. on March 18.