OSWEGO — Temperatures hovered right around freezing Saturday when dozens of people dove into Lake Ontario as part of the Oswego Polar Plunge, the fourth annual chilly dip to raise funds in an international effort that supports more than 67,000 New York athletes as they train and compete in the Special Olympics.
Participants took a brief dip in the water at the boat launch at Wright's Landing, making a quick turn around the barrier that separates the launch ramps. Shouting and screams could be heard as soon as people entered the icy water, and one individual even lost his glasses in the commotion.
A few braved the cold water for a bit longer than others, but the entire plunge, which began at 1 p.m., lasted only a few minutes. Entertainment and registration began at 11 a.m., and nearby Gibby O'Connor's Irish Pub welcomed all participants and held a chicken dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Breanna Woods, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, said even in her heavy gear the water was still cold. Wind gusts on the lake were stronger than 10 mph, making it feel well below the 32 degrees reported by the National Weather Service.
Most participants frantically raced for shelter and warm, dry clothing immediately after exiting the water, while some reveled in the frosty air.
A member of the team Bay-watch Returns, Kevin Cummins, entered the water in nothing but a skimpy pair of pink compression shorts. Cummins, who joined with several friends to participate in the plunge, said he had fun and would do it again.
"I'd do it in less," Cummins said as he dried off slowly in the cold air. "Epic times, better friends." More than $10,000 was raised by the many teams that registered for the event, with John Luther Gray and his team Red, White and Blue taking the title of top fundraisers.
They raised more than $1,500, of which Gray contributed more than $600, and brought a patriotic style to the event that included a lot of red, white and blue clothing with stars and stripes.
Gray's teammate Rich Hall, who wore a scanty pair of U.S. A. themed shorts with matching suspenders, others, waved American flags in the water and throughout the event.
Among the other were several local sororities and fraternities, businesses, and other individuals that raised money and braved the icy waters to support Special Olympics. The event will help to fund the more than 65,000 athletes that compete year-round in 22 Olympics-style sports.