9th annual Polar Plunge takes place Saturday on Green Lake in Spicer, Minn.
By Carolyn Lange
SPICER — The Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Department sent out a public advisory last weekend warning people about unsafe ice after a truck partially plunged into open water on Green Lake.
This week, however, local law enforcement officers are encouraging people to willingly jump into ice-cold Green Lake on Saturday during the ninth annual Polar Plunge in Spicer, which raises money for the Minnesota Special Olympics programs.
“The first time I did it, it was like, ‘wow,’” said Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog, who has made the plunge six times. “It’s definitely an eye-opener.”
Law enforcement departments, including county sheriffs and municipal police departments are key sponsors for Polar Plunges that are held across the state.
“It’s just a good community event. We enjoy doing it,” said Hartog. “Everyone gets revved up to do it.”
Last year about 450 plungers jumped into the frigid waters of Green Lake and raised a record-breaking $80,034 locally.
Statewide nearly $3 million was raised last year for Minnesota Special Olympics.
By early this week 310 Green Lake plungers had registered online and more than $25,000 had been pledged online at www.plungemn.org. Compared with the same time last year the online donations are well ahead of schedule, said Willmar Police Captain Jim Felt, who is a key coordinator for the Green Lake Plunge.
“That’s really encouraging for us,” said Felt, and a good indicator that the 2013 donations will exceed 2012 locally.
Since the first Polar Plunge in Green Lake in 2005 a total of 1,911 people have jumped in the lake and a total of $346,045 has been raised locally.
Each person who makes the plunge is asked to raise a minimum of $75 in donations.
Groups of friends, co-workers, school classmates or families often make the jump together.
Wearing fun costumes, often with tropical or super-hero themes, the participants register under a witty team name. One Green Lake group jumping this year is called “I can’t believe you talked me into this.”
Last year I joined a large group called the “Plungers” that made the jump into Green Lake while each member clutched a toilet plunger.
Leaping from the platform on the edge of the ice hole and hitting the barely 32-degree water (yes, I made a complete plunge with my head going totally underwater unlike several tall people who only plunged up to their shoulders — not that I’m gloating about that) was an indescribable shock.
Let’s just say I was very thankful for the nice men and women in wet suits standing in the water that gently pulled me from the icy grasp of Davey Jones’ Locker (OK, yes, I’m exaggerating here) and guided me in the general direction of shore.
After a 20 second sprint to warmth, towels and dry clothes a giddy, cleansing exhilaration hit hard and lasted all day.
It was an amazing physical experience that was doubled with the knowledge that money raised helped local Special Olympic athletes reach their personal goals.
Many of the Special Olympics athletes help with the event and will be on the lake on Saturday to cheer on the participants, said Felt. “They are excited by the people that support them.”
This year there will be Polar Plunges held in 16 different Minnesota communities during the coldest months of the year — from January through March.
Felt, who has made the jump a couple times, said the event has “exploded” beyond their expectations since it began here nine years ago.
The layout of the event is slightly different this year.
The jump site has been shifted a little north of Zorbaz to be directly in front of the Spicer Ice Castle, which will increase the viewing area for spectators.
Both men and women jumpers will change out of their wet clothes in large tents warmed with heaters. In the past women changed inside Zorbaz.
Registration and sign-in will take place across the street at the Spicer American Legion.
In order to better facilitate the crowd, Felt said their goal is to give participants an approximate jump time so they can stay at the Legion longer before moving over to the pre-jump location at Zorbaz.
Past events have had decent weather although one year the water temperature was a “relief” compared to the air temperature, said Felt.
That may be the case again this year, with the daytime high expected to be about 15 degrees above zero.
Whether people are jumping, making a donation or watching the event Felt said the Polar Plunge is a “good opportunity to get together and have fun and show support for Special Olympics.”
What: 2013 Willmar/Spicer Polar Bear Plunge
Who: Any risk-taker or supporter is welcome to take the Plunge. All that’s needed is a $75 donation, raised through pledges, and a whole lot of courage! Last year, more than 450 brave souls took the Plunge into Green Lake and raised approximately $80,000 in support of Special Olympics Minnesota.
When: The Plunge begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Pre-plunge check-in: Friday from 6-8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Spicer American Legion.
Day-of Plunge check-in: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Where: The plunge takes place near Zorbaz on Green Lake by the Spicer Ice Castle, 159 Avenue South, in Spicer.
Why: Presented by Minnesota law enforcement to be “freezin’ for a reason” and support Special Olympics Minnesota. Besides, Minnesotans know how to be bold in the cold!