The 13th annual Prior Lake Polar Plunge will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 27 at Sand Point Beach. This year’s event will look a little different due to the ongoing pandemic, officials said.
The event is one in a series of polar plunge events that make up the Special Olympics of Minnesota’s biggest fundraiser. One-hundred percent of the proceeds raised during the events go toward helping Special Olympics Minnesota provide year-round training and services to over 8,100 athletes across the state, the Polar Plunge Minnesota website states.
According to the Prior Lake event page, more than 400 plungers have already registered to jump into the frigid waters of Prior Lake, not quite warmed from the winter season.
In its 12-year history, the Prior Lake Polar Plunge has raised over $1,633,000. Last year, 689 plungers raised a total of 194,000.
So far this year, the currently registered plungers have raised $97,558 and continue counting toward their $100,000 goal.
Changes this year
Typically, the polar plunge takes place mid-February, but the pandemic led state organizers to push events back to allow for more time to plan for new requirements, said Katie Howlett, marketing and communications manager for Special Olympics Minnesota.
The later date means plungers will most likely run into and then out of open water instead of diving into a hole cut into the ice. They will also be required to wear masks except when entering the water.
“We’re also spreading out the plungers so every plunger will have to sign up for a time slot ahead of time and that’s just to help us with social distancing and to make sure our changing tents never get too crowded,” she said.
While the event typically draws a crowd of locals coming to see participants’ wacky outfits and surprised faces as they take the plunge, no spectators will be allowed within the event perimeter this year. A photographer will be present to document the event, Howlett noted.
New this year is the virtual plunge, which offers those who may not be comfortable participating in-person an alternative way to get involved.
The only rules are to “get cold, be safe and don’t forget to document it” by tagging #virtualplungemn, the website states.
“It’s really ranged from people doing snow angels in their swimsuits to dumping a bucket of cold water on their head,” Howlett said, adding that she too will be participating virtually. “It’s been really fun to see how people get creative, but that’s another option if people don’t feel comfortable coming out to the event, they can definitely do the virtual option.”
The virtual plunge webpage states 492 people have registered raising a total of $82,242 so far.
Howlett said getting involved in the polar plunge is more important now than ever.
“COVID has had such an impact on so many small businesses and organizations like Special Olympics Minnesota and the polar plunge is really what unlocks access to these really important programs for athletes and people with intellectual disabilities in Minnesota,” she said. “When you take the polar plunge you’re making sure that our athletes have the programs that they need and deserve.”
The organization is grateful for the support they have received so far and the Minnesotans willing to take the plunge to support Special Olympics Minnesota, she added.
Polar Plunge 2021 participants also have the chance to be entered into drawings for prizes like a Polaris snowmobile, special edition T-shirts, a start up donation from Affinity Plus and $1,000 from the Fox 9 Plunge Contest.
For more information on the Prior Lake Polar Plunge, or to view the local leaderboard, visit www.plungemn.org/events/prior-lake.