Spectators are encouraged to celebrate New Year’s Day tomorrow by coming out to what has become a popular Jan. 1 event here over the past nine years: the Fort Frances Voyageur Lions’ “Polar Plunge.”
“We’d like the public to come and watch. It’s always a good event,” enthused co-organizer Jim Martindale, adding the “Polar Plunge” will start at 1 p.m. at the government dock behind La Place Rendez-Vous.
As in past years, spectators will be able to stand on the dock to watch participants jump into a hole in the ice on Sand Bay.
Martindale and other volunteers were out at the site today, clearing snow, drilling the hole in the ice, and erecting ice shacks.
“We shouldn’t have any trouble with the ice,” he said. “We had plenty of good, cold weather before the snow came, and then we got light snow and it was still freezing pretty good.
“Then, lately, we got all this heavy snow, which is on top of, I think, pretty good ice,” he added.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue this year.”
For the sake of the spectators’ comfort, Martindale is hopeful it isn’t too cold tomorrow, it’s sunny, and there’s no wind.
As for those wanting to take the plunge themselves, Martindale stressed it’s not too late to sign up, adding pledge forms will continue to be available at the Vous right up until the time of the event.
“There’s lot of people in the past that have picked up sheets on New Year’s Eve and even been challenged at parties, and said, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ and showed up the next day with $50 and they jump,” he remarked.
“And that’s great. We really encourage that.”
Martindale said while the event starts at 1 p.m., “plungers” are asked to show up at 11 a.m. for registration.
Every participant receives a T-shirt and, after the jump, will get a chili lunch to warm their bones.
A number of prizes also will be up for grabs, including best costume prizes (courtesy of Diana’s Needle Art), as well as individual and group ones.
While the event is better organized this year than it’s ever been, noted Martindale, it’s hard to say at this time just how many participants will be there tomorrow as not everyone who’s picked up pledge forms has confirmed their attendance.
But it is known several groups will be represented, such as the Muskie Sports Association and St. Mary’s Youth Group, along with perennial “plungers” like Aquanaut Jillian Gustafson, local MP John Rafferty (jumping for Special Olympics), Dale Gill, Bill Michl, Maureen Hahkala, Coun. Andrew Hallikas, and Martindale himself.
“We’re looking at over 50 [participants] but I am always the optimist and I am hoping we hit 70-75,” said Martindale.
“You look ahead, you push—I have a vision of a 100 jumpers at some point.
“I don’t think it’s too much expect if we get more and more of these groups in to raise money.
“It’s a good fundraiser for any group,” Martindale stressed. “They don’t have to advertise, they don’t have to do anything, there’s no risk involved.
“They just have to beat some bushes and get some sponsors and get some jumpers,” he added, referring to the fact participating groups receive half of the net proceeds raised by member jumpers while those interested in jumping as individuals raise funds for the Voyageur Lions.
The club’s charity focus is helping children and youth, but one specific project for which it currently is fundraising is vision-assisted equipment for the new Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre.
Last January’s “Polar Plunge” raised more than $14,000, with organizers hoping to up that total to $20,000 this time around.
Over the past nine year, more than $60,000 has been returned to community youth groups and charities because of the “Polar Plunge.”