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Ogdensburg’s plungers face icy water in annual Polar Bear jump

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OGDENSBURG — It was a cold, wet and proud walk back up the ramp behind the Dobisky Visitors Center Saturday afternoon as jumpers for the annual Polar Bear Plunge quickly made their way to the hot tub waiting for them on the center’s back porch.

One by one, the 20 registered jumpers were introduced before they each made their way down to the ice and the approximately 5-by-10-foot hole where members of the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad were waiting. Each jumper had to wait for a harness to be secured before taking the plunge.

“It’s cold this year,” Richard L. FitzGerald, DeKalb, said as he walked back up the ladder and shivered his way back up to the platform where spectators cheered him on.

The 71-year-old was the first in the water and was the oldest jumper.

This year, there were only 20 jumpers compared to more than 30 last year. The lower turnout could be the result of the extreme weather this year, said Laura J. Pearson, executive director of the Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce.

“It could also be that there are a lot of other events going on or that it’s daunting to jump in the St. Lawrence River in the middle of February,” Ms. Pearson said. “I think we get more spectators than anything because it’s crazy to watch people jump into the river with three feet of ice.”

Although the temperature of the water was the same as last year, a bitter 33 degrees, Ms. Pearson said the rescue squad had to cut through 3 feet of ice to get to the water this year.

Each jumper had to raise a minimum pledge of $35 to participate in the plunge. The money raised was split between the Chamber of Commerce and the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“It’s her fault we’re doing this,” Leah M. Wichmann and Laura S. Bryce said as they pointed to their third companion, Calli S. Guyett.

The three friends, all from Prescott, Ontario, crossed the border to plunge into the icy water together.

“This past year we’ve just come together and started doing different, random events,” Ms. Guyett said.

Together, the three raised more than $700 in pledges.

“Our winters are so long that we break it up a little bit by doing something fun like this,” Ms. Pearson said. “The river is so beautiful and it’s beautiful all year long.”

There were four costume prizes for jumpers that included best guy, best girl, most creative and funniest.

Amy L. Fry, Middleport, and her friend Stephanie J. Fay, Chase Mills, were dressed as Batman and Robin as the dynamic duo braved the water for their first time.

“It was a mutual idea,” Ms. Fry said. “We’ve both tried to back out twice.”

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