BEMUS POINT - Brooke Sheesley of Ashville Bay may be receiving the top prize for the Chautauqua Lake Ice Pick contest, but the real winner is her father, Bill Sheesley.
That is because Sheesley will use a portion of her winnings - $2,900 - from the contest on a gift for her father's 70th birthday this summer.
''I'm going to save part of it, and travel with the rest. For my dad's 70th birthday, we're going to the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo,'' she said.
From left, Rhoe Henderson, Tom Pembridge, Brooke Sheesley, Tom Calalesina and Nancy Bargar received their awards for the Chautauqua Lake Ice Pick contest at the The Lawson Boating Heritage Center, 73 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point, Wednesday. Sheesley was the grand-prize winner while the other four, and Bruce Erickson, were runners-up in the contest.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
Sheesley said it was very, very surprising when she was told she was the winner.
''It was great to hear that from Peter,'' she said about Peter Sullivan, event organizer, contacting her with the good news.
Sheesley said she made three guesses, all in the month of April. Her correct guess of 4:44 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, was the earliest guess she made of the three.
''I assumed it would be later in the winter. We had such a cold winter,'' she said.
The contest winner said she placed her wager toward the end of betting, which concluded March 10. In fact, Sheesley can thank Sullivan's wife, Holly, for placing the bets.
''She said I just had to (make a guess),'' Sheesley said.
Tom Pembridge, who was the first runner-up, recruited his employees to also participate in the contest. The owner of Chautauqua Metal Finishing said he placed two bets a piece for about 30 of his employees.
''We do things like this once in a while when there is a lottery or something like this,'' he said. ''We try to do things together.''
Sheesley and Pembridge both attended an awards event for the winners of the contest at The Lawson Boating Heritage Center, 73 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point, Wednesday. The Chautauqua Lake ice pick went through the ice at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.
Around $12,000 was raised from the contest, with each guess costing $5. Sheesley received 25 percent of the money. The five runners-up each then received 5 percent of the remaining pot. Pembridge, Nancy Bargar, Rhoe Henderson, Bruce Erickson and Tom Calalesina were the runners-up. The remaining 50 percent was donated to the Chautauqua Lake Association.
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.