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POLSON – Chill seekers splashed into the nippy waters of Flathead Lake to kick off the first day of 2020 during the 22nd Annual Polson Polar Plunge. 

The event was held along the boat ramp and shoreline of Polson’s Riverside Park on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 1. For some Mission Valley residents, the bone-chilling New Year’s Day ritual has become a tradition that they look forward to each year. For others, the plunge is a chance to experience something different.

“I have been planning to do this for a while. It’s something on my bucket list that I haven’t done before,” said first-time plunger Kathy Ross of St. Ignatius.

Ross explained that she and a co-worker had been chatting about jumping in the near-freezing lake water on New Year’s Day for the last six or seven years. “Last year was so cold we chickened out. I said, ‘I am going to give it a try this year,’ and here I am.” 

This year’s weather proved to be relatively balmy compared to previous events, which was lucky for about 40 participants. According to Dave Bull, who would rather be called an event instigator than an organizer, this year’s polar plunge water temperatures were around 39 degrees, while the air temperature hovered between 46 and 48 degrees. “This is like summer, absolutely, this is the warmest plunge we have ever held. If anyone is whining this year, they are wimps,” said Bull, chuckling.

Even with the warmer favorable conditions, shrieks and shrills could be heard as participants dashed into the water. Some waded into the water about waist-thigh while others dunked their entire bodies underwater and even took a quick swim before going back to the shore and receiving high-fives. Once on shore, participants quickly dried off, took keepsake photos and rushed to the warmth of their vehicles.

“This is so much fun; it’s a good way to start the year,” said seasoned plunger Melvin Quakenbush of Ronan, who had just participated in his sixth Polar Plunge. “It makes you feel alive.”

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