American has had a pretty mild winter so far, however it’s still cold enough to freeze lakes in Minnesota. On my recent trip there I was able to experience one of the things that makes Minnesotans great – their love of the cold weather. I admire people who live in the Northern US; they have winter 5 months of the year, yet they don’t hibernate, they embrace it. That embrace comes in a multitude of forms from hockey rinks in back yards, to broom ball leagues, to ice fishing, to skiing, and snow mobiling. They love the winter so much that they even go swimming in the winter via the Polar Plunge.
The Polar Plunge is a fundraising event for the Special Olympics held all over the Northern US where people raise money for charity and take the ultimate plunge in a frozen lake. I happened to be at White Bear Lake in Minnesota for this year’s event.
I bundled up in my down coat, hat, scarf, fur lined boots, and mittens and went off to photograph the chilling event. You simply walk out on the ice and watch thousands of people line up to take the ultimate, refreshing dip.
A square is cut in the ice and it is carefully manned by emergency personnel bundled up in the latest high tech gear in the water to assist in an emergency. Then people step from the warming tent and line up on the ice and plunge one by one. Some approach it with apprehension, some with gusto. Most all use the opportunity to dress up as if it were Halloween. Some of the costumes were outrageous, skimpy, and not very buoyant! Young and old participated, and no one chickened out.
I snapped pictures for an hour and then I couldn’t take it any longer, I had to get inside and warm up with some hot chocolate! So, if you are upset that it’s a mild winter in the US, then check out these pictures, they should give you a chill…after all, it is still winter outside!
By Barbara Weibel February 24, 2012 - 8:42 am
Brrrr! That is all.
By Kim February 24, 2012 - 11:23 am
Haha, love the photos. People will use any excuse to put on a costume! (me included)
By Mark H February 24, 2012 - 3:52 pm
I love these kind of events. It raises money for good causes and brings out the (good) excesses of wonderfully extroverted characters.
By Erik February 26, 2012 - 8:18 pm
A group of my friends and I went skinny dipping on New Years Even back in 1997 in Northwest Michigan (Lake Michigan) and all I remember thinking was that they would find my find my body a few days later in Wisconsin and think it was the great lakes new species of whale 🙂 Yes, alcohol was involved- these people seem to be stone sober. Not sure which is crazier…
By Sherry February 26, 2012 - 9:18 pm
Whew! good thing you survived! I’m not completely sure some of the people I saw taking the plunge weren’t drinking in the warming tent earlier! 🙂
By Amanda February 26, 2012 - 8:31 pm
Haha, I’ve always wanted to attend one of these! Not sure if I’d be brave enough to try it myself, but it sure looks like a fun (if cold) event!
By Sherry February 26, 2012 - 9:17 pm
Yes – I’m interested too…but decided to stay spectating this year!
By Katie February 27, 2012 - 1:39 pm
Having grown up in good ole White Bear, I LOVE this! (although I don’t think they did the Polar Plunge there when I was growing up).
By Andrew February 27, 2012 - 3:24 pm
That looks interesting. I definitely want one of those yellow suits, the ones the rescue people have on, if I was going to do it.
Some great pics.
By Kirk Horsted March 12, 2012 - 4:13 pm
YES! I discovered this article a bit late, but love it anyhow. Thanks to this bizarre winter, we will soon be plunging into REAL water much earlier than usual. Not to worry, the lakes will still be cold. Next time, I hope you take the leap!