Some brave souls rushed the lake Sunday for a good cause during the annual Polar Bear Plunge in New Baltimore.
"It only hurts for a little while," said seasoned plunger Earl Dunn, 49 of Chesterfield Township.
His wife, Theresa Dunn, 44, admitted nerves were settling in before the plunge. But she said they subsided in time for her to join her husband and 17-year-old son, Robert, an Anchor Bay High student on the Air Force Junior ROTC plunge team spearheaded by Col. Jeff Carrothers.
"He only has one year left of high school, so I wanted to do something with him," said Dunn, adding her son has participated multiple times in the event.
Their game plan after the dip was to crank the heat on full blast in their car and rush home to change.
That may have been a good bet since the water was expected to be around 33 degrees, according to New Baltimore Fire Chief Ken Lawfield. Outdoor temps hovered around the high 20s to low 30s during the day.
Warming tents near the water were also available for plungers before and after the dip. Many participants, however, waited outside for about a half-hour before they were called to the water by team name.
Last year, 22 inches of ice had to be cut to form a pool in the frozen lake in order for plungers to reach the water. This year, everyone was able to take off from shore, with assistance from a ramp and city firefighters.
As approximately 1,000 onlookers cheered, plungers of various ages walked and ran into the waters. Some did jigs in celebration of their feat, others quaked from the cold, with one plunger exclaiming "Never again!" as he reached shore. One woman took the plunge twice because family members didn't take pictures the first time, organizers said.
The Polar Bear Plunge is a decade-old tradition that was formed by Winterfest organizers, the New Baltimore Lions' Club, to bring some extra pizzazz to the three-day fundraiser, said Richard Gonyeau, Lions Club member who was club president during the inaugural plunge.
Despite its growing popularity, many people were a bit weary of the idea, Gonyeau said.
"They still think we're crazy," he said with a laugh.
On Sunday afternoon, Winterfest Chairman and Lions Club Treasurer Karl Rutledge said combined attendance for all three days was expected to be around average: about 2,500-3,000 visitors. However, total numbers were not tallied by Sunday evening.