A large sheet of ice covered part of Lake Royer on Tuesday, but that did not stop a group of daring souls to try to swim out and touch it at the second annual Polar Plunge Party at Fort Ritchie Community Center (FRCC) in Cascade.
“I can’t feel anything from the waist down,” Emily Grimes, 13, said after taking the plunge. “I did it last year and had a great time, but it was definitely colder this year. There wasn’t ice last year.”
Grimes, who is from Frederick, Md., did the plunge with her friend Megan Gutierrez, 14, last year. This time they brought their friends Madeline Makusky, 13, and Sarah Pryor, 14. After the initial plunge, they went back in the water again.
“We went back in so we could go under,” Makusky said. “It was freezing cold. I’m feeling numb.”
The party began at noon Tuesday with the plunge happening at 1 p.m. People in costumes, body paint, and swimming suits took the plunge along with a few dogs. A few people swam out to the ice, others submerged themselves in the water and some had enough after just stepping into the lake.
Smithsburg resident Spanky Bentz, 44, participated in the event this year for the second time and said the water was colder than last year.
“I dove under and skimmed the bottom of the lake,” he said. “I’m mildly insane.”
Grant Gayman, 56, of Waynesboro, also took the plunge.
“I’ve never been in water that cold,” he said. “I’m perfect now. It’s one of those instantaneous colds.”
In order to take part in the plunge, swimmers had to raise a minimum of $25 in pledges for FRCC, and they also received long sleeve T-shirts. Prizes were awarded to those who raised the most money.
Chelsea Cover of Waynesboro convinced four friends to do the plunge Tuesday but expressed concern about freezing after getting in.
“We’re freaks!” said the 14-year-old. “We just wanted to get cold. It’s something fun to do.”
Morgan French, one of Cover’s friends who was convinced to do the plunge, said she was worried about her toes falling off.
“It’s cold,” she said. “All these crazies wanted me to do it with them, and I’m crazy too.”
FRCC Business and Development Manager Kirsten Hubbard said that about 150 people took part in the first annual plunge in 2012 and that she expected that number to increase this year.
Hubbard said that the plunge is a way for the community to “tip our hat” to the history of the lake.
“This lake was built in the 1800s as an ice harvesting lake to service Pen Mar Park which at the time was a resort area,” she said. “The ice also traveled down to D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.”
FRCC is a sports, health and fitness, arts and crafts, and community events center and is a non-profit, charitable organization.