(this story originally appeared on Sheridan Media)
The Polar Plunge on Lake DeSmet was canceled this year due illness of one of the gentlemen who usually helps out by cutting a hole in the ice and making sure that participants are safe when jumping into the water and getting back out.
On some years the lake is free of ice, as it was on Thursday, Dec. 30th, and participants run into the water instead of climbing into a hole cut in the ice. However, a cold snap on New Year’s Eve iced over the lake.
Without an official organizer, and the difficulty of contacting the people who might participate, around 30 people came to Lake DeSmet on New Years Day, to see if the event was going to happen. After discussion among the would-be participants, it was decided, due to safety concerns, to cancel the event for 2022. In previous years around 100 people come to take the icy plunge.
Jeri Haugen, Big Horn, who has attended the event in past years to watch her son, Steve, and his two boys dive into the icy water, had planned to do the plunge with them this year.
Steve unfortunately passed away last summer. “I was going to fulfill my promise to him, but I guess it will be next year,” Jeri Haugen said. Her granddaughter and Steve’s niece, Keira Benedict, had planned to do the plunge as well.
Kel Harris, Buffalo, said she didn’t plan to go into the water, but enjoyed watching the event. “I have watched the event for many years,” she said. “Its a New Year’s Day tradition.”
In previous years participants have said that the icy dip it is a way of cleansing themselves for the New Year.
Steve Bakken, who has been doing the plunge for at least 10 years, felt that it was a good way to start the year, and a fun tradition, “We come out with the family and kids run around and play. Today was pretty cold so everyone else stayed home.” Steve is the only one of his family who does the plunge, but has some friends that he participates with.
In spite of the single digit temperatures, since the plunge was canceled, many people decided stay at the Lake to take advantage of the sunny day to sled and play on the ice.
Polar Plunges worldwide are an old tradition, with sources saying the first one recorded was in 1904 in Boston. Many raise money for charities, such as special Olympics.
Although most are held on New Years Day, there is a polar plunge that is held in midsummer in Antarctica. It is a considered a rite of passage for scientists and visitors to New Zealand’s Scott Base there. It is held in late December.