655 jumpers ring in new year at Long Lake Park plunge

OlympianJanuary 1, 2014 

The annual Polar Bear Plunge at Long Lake Park helped Kurt Dahlgren quit smoking.

Five years ago, when he jumped into the chilly water for the first time, his pack of cigarettes floated to the surface. The Lacey resident hasn’t smoked since.

“Talk about cold turkey,” he said Wednesday. “It worked.”

Dahlgren and his family have turned the plunge into an annual tradition. On New Year’s Day, they were among 655 jumpers who braved the 44-degree water to ring in 2014.

The jumpers lined the dock dressed in swimsuits, bikinis, tutus, superhero costumes, gorilla masks, balloons – you name it. Three waves of jumpers splashed into the frigid lake with a chorus of screams.

Enrique Garcia, 11, supported his friends from the shore. He had no problem admitting that he had chickened out.

“This is way too cold,” said Garcia, a Lacey resident. “I hate cold water.”

One jumper who enjoys the icy dip each year is Shaun Rose. Dressed in his trademark Santa Claus hat and yellowing white beard, Rose waded out of the lake as if savoring every second. Rose has participated every New Year’s Day since 1985, when he and two others started the plunge at the original site on Capitol Lake. The event was later relocated to Long Lake Park in 2008, where it has continued to grow ever since.

For some folks, there was a charitable reason for the freezing. Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint agreed to take the plunge after Roxy 94.5 FM collected 500 cans of food for the Thurston County Food Bank.

As the last wave of jumpers waited on the dock, Roxy radio personality Ron Harris pushed Pierpoint overboard. However, he got his comeuppance when the chief climbed the dock ladder and yanked Harris into the lake.

“He threw me in last year,” Harris said afterward. “I finally got even with the police chief.”

First-time plunger Karen Lucas of Olympia was able to scratch one more item off her bucket list, thanks to a local meet-up group called Bust Your Bucket List.

“Who doesn’t want to jump into a freezing cold lake on New Year’s Day?” she said.

Lacey resident Brian Krauszowski, 11, was back for his second plunge. The rest of his family stayed warm on the sidelines.

“It felt like jumping into a pair of knives,” he said of the cold water, adding that he plans to take the plunge again next year.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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