FAIRFIELD BEACH– Sunday’s Polar Bear Plunge at the Buckeye Lake Winery helped raise roughly $5,000 cold cash for the Buckeye Lake Historical Society.
Nearly 100 of the 500 people who attended the event plunged into a hole cut in Buckeye Lake’s icy surface to raise money for the society and to prove that one of the coldest winters on record couldn’t put the deep freeze on outdoor fun.
“Who would have believed that so many people would want to jump in the lake?” said Buckeye Lake Historical Society Director J-me Braig. “They were all looking for a new idea here at the lake and also to support a worthy cause. The event bought out all kinds of visitors. I was surprised at the way people used creative ways to dress and have fun.”
Not content with simply jumping into a frozen lake on the second day of February, some who took the plunge were dressed as penguins, Vikings, early 1900s bathers, or even in drag.
Braig said the event raised roughly $4,500 in pledges, sales of Buckeye Lake Museum memorabilia, and $5 from each t-shirt sold. “We had an old bathing suit that we raffled and raised about $150 for that,” she said.
Braig was one of the first to jump into the icy water, along with winery owner Tracy Higginbotham, his wife, Laura, and Judge Luann Cooperrider, whoserves on the museum board. “The water was very cold,” said Braig. “It was a shock to jump in. I went under twice and I was actually warm when I got out, if that makes any sense. It was a thrill to be standing there seeingmaybe 100 people on the docks, cheering us on.”
Braig said the way owners and staff of the winery handled the event was perfect for its first run. “I spent a lot of time going from table to table thanking the folks for coming out. I checked in the parking lot and the license plates were from all over the state,” she said.
“Many of them saw it on the social media network and heard about it on the radio.
“I can’t thank the Higginbothams, (Buckeye Lake Winery General Manager) Carol Thress and the staff of the winery enough for all their hard work and effortt o make it successful and to support the historical society,” said Braig.
“The winter months take a toll on us financially and to have that benefit in February made it the best February we have ever had as far as donations go.
The money raised will help us to continue to operate and to make tourism here at the lake strong.”