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Crazy or dedicated? Scores leap into freezing reservoir for 6th Polar Plunge

January 26th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Jess Allen

HYRUM—The crowd huddled behind a fence on the shore of the Hyrum Reservoir, watching shivering polar bears walk the long, wooden walkway and onto the ice to jump into the freezing water.

It was the 6th annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” Polar Plunge Saturday, to raise money for Utah’s Special Olympics, said Cache Deputy Sheriff Misty Garn. The Polar Plunge is the largest fundraiser for the cause in Utah.

Participants and organizers faced some unexpected issues this year, as new and old plungers came to make the treacherous leap with family and friends cheering them on.

“We got some overzealous chainsaw people this year,” Garn said, as a shivering and dripping wet Santa trudged by.

Following Santa, another plunger stood at the front of the icy rectangle of freezing water. With a look of resolve, he swung his arms and leapt into the icy water with the roar of cheers as his head bobbed to the surface.

The Hyrum ice was not as thick as last year, Garn said, when the reservoir has frozen to a sturdy 14 inches. Warmer weather this January meant the ice was more like 5 to 6 inches, which the polar plungers and organizers had to hope would be enough.

The Plunge started with a Friday afternoon session, another at midnight, and again on Saturday at noon. Those who braved the icy water all three times were considered super plungers.

The Polar Plunge gets bigger and better every year, Garn said, and even the midnight plunge drew about 50 plungers and at least 50 spectators.

One of the biggest improvements this year, Garn said, was keeping people off of the ice behind a fence on shore, and separating the crowds of plungers and spectators.

Some plungers dressed up for the costume contest or just for fun while, others went with traditional swim suits or trunks.

“I heard about it last year and just tried to keep track of it this year,” said super plunger Teancum Quist, 24, as water drops rolled down the lenses of his glasses and black tie.

Some people, like super plunger Melissa Hyer, 21, said she had found out about the Polar Plunge online and thought it sounded like fun.

“Last night was the worst,” Hyer said. “It was snowing and there was wind.”

Amberly Davis, 22, said her friend had told her about it and decided to brave the icy waters just to say she did it, but she was not expecting the water to be as cold as it was Saturday.

“I think my heart stopped,” Davis said. “It was bad.”

Davis was not the only one who was shocked by how frigid the water was.

“It was ridiculously cold,” said Scott Holt, 23. “I’ve gone scuba diving in some really cold water, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold.”

This year, Garn said, organizers had raised at least $10,000 midway through the event, after the Friday midnight session. By the end on Saturday, Garn said the total had probably topped last year’s $17,000.

“I think it’s really cool that people risk bodily harm for a good cause,” said spectator Mary Neary, 21. “I think it’s really neat.”

Not everyone who watched the brave or crazy—depending on how you view it—souls leap into the water was moved to follow their example.

“Even if it was a life-changing epic event I would never do it,” said Steve Wiseman, 29, with a smile. “Never.”


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