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Watching ice break promises winter excitement

KENT — It’s been a cold, cold winter in Kent. With temperatures cold enough to freeze the fingers and toes off of even the heartiest individual, outdoor activities are kept to a bare minimum.

There’s not much to do outside, except watch the ice slowly break apart in the Housatonic River.

Which is good news for the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, which is holding its annual Ice Watch fundraiser.

“The idea started as a topic of debate at the old coffee shop 32 years ago,” department member and event organizer Bill Rundall reminisced. “The founder was John Green, who owned The Kent Good Times Dispatch. He saw an ice watch contest over in Alaska and brought the idea to Kent.”

The contest is fairly simple: guess what time and date the ice in the river will start to break. A special tripod is placed on the river on Feb. 21 at midnight; it records the exact time the ice begins to move around on the river.

While the contest might sound simple, Rundall said that guessing exactly when the ice will break apart is not all that  easy.

“There is no exact formula,” he said. “You can look at all the previous times the ice began to break through the years, or ask your local farmer. Some people do stare at the ice. If you stare at the icy river long enough you can start to hear the snap, crackle and pop sounds that it makes.”

The contest is a fundraiser for the department. Half of the money collected from entries goes to the department and the other half goes to the victor.

“The price for a guess is about the same as the price of a cup of coffee,” Rundall said. “This is a wonderful way to support the fire department. The contest has gotten so popular that we’ve had people from all across the country send in entries.”

Rundall said that there is, indeed, excitement in taking the time to watch ice break.

“This contest gives us something to do in the winter,” Rundall said. “This is part of the town’s history.”

The cost to participate is $2 for each entry. Send the date and time you think the river will begin to break to Kent Ice Watch, Kent Fire Department, PO Box 355, Kent, CT 06757.

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