Plungers brave frigid temperatures

Published 12:22 pm Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pelham Mayor Gary Waters sprints into the frigid Oak Mountain State Park lake during the Jan. 26 Polar Plunge. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham Mayor Gary Waters didn’t hide his feelings when exiting the 49-degree water during the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s 2013 Polar Plunge at the Oak Mountain State Park beach.

“There is no way to come out of that water and not have a stupid look on your face,” Waters said with a laugh as he dried off from his dip in the park’s lake. “But it actually feels better when you get out of the water.”

Outside temperatures were about 42 degrees when dozens of costumed characters either sprinted into the lake or slowly trudged into the water. Most of the event’s spectators – and those who had already taken a dip into the lake – huddled around a large bonfire built on the beach.

This year marked the third straight for the Polar Plunge in Pelham, which is sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run organization and raises money for Special Olympics Alabama.

For 2013, event organizers added the first Polar Bear Challenge – an about one-mile run filled with about 10 obstacles – and a lakeside costume party.

The polar plungers dressed in costumes ranging from angels and bowlers to cats and characters from the show “Duck Dynasty.” Waters entered the water wearing a black suit, a white button-up shirt and an American flag tie.

“It’s got kind of a tingly feeling when you hit the water,” said Pelham Fire Department Lt. Ricky King. “They tell you to swim to the divers out in the water, but I think they kept backing up.”

Pelham Police officer Debbie Sumrall, who works to organize the event each year, said she was pleased with the attendance, and said this year’s temperatures were the coldest in the event’s history.

“It’s so much colder when you’re in the water. It feels better when you get out,” Sumrall said with a laugh right after stepping onto dry land.