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Plunging into the New Year

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More than 200 jump into Evergreen Lake during Ice Fest

By Sandy Barnes

“I’m nervous,” said Maria Hadsell while waiting to jump into the icy waters of Evergreen Lake on New Year’s Day.

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“My mom told me if I would do it, she would,” said Sallie Markey, who was standing with her friend Maria.

“If you jump in and a muskrat assaults you, that’s the way it is,” said CBS4 Denver newscaster Alan Gionet, master of ceremonies for the annual Evergreen Lake Plunge.

Along with more than 200 people, the young girls dove into a hole in the ice while a large crowd watched.

“The only thing I jump into this time of year is a hot tub,” said resident Jim Aumann, who was among the onlookers.

“It was definitely colder than I thought it would be. My pants are frozen,” Maria said after taking the plunge. 

“I can’t feel a single part of my body,” said Isabelle Matthews, who jumped into the lake for the first time.

Diving into the lake on the sunny but wintry day was all for a good cause. The entry fee paid by participants is contributed to Drive Smart and the Evergreen Park and Recreation District’s Special Needs Program.

Both first-timers and veteran jumpers took the plunge, with varying reactions.

“It was fun,” said 11-year-old Onika Benson, who went into the water for the second time.
"I love this, mostly for the bragging rights,” she added.

Teams also braved the chilly waters, including high school students dressed in surfing attire and a chef-clad group representing Whole Foods in Denver.

The anticipation of the plunge was the hardest part, said Justin Ryan of the Whole Foods team. 

“When you hit the water, you don’t feel anything,” he said.

Drive Smart executive director Jackie Mohr and her daughter Isabella were among those who participated.

“It was totally worth it,” Mohr said.

Isabella also said she was happy that she jumped into the lake. 

“It was shocking and painful, but it was fun,” she said. “I think of it as what you do for somebody else.”

Skating on the eve

The Evergreen Ice Fest, which also included a pond hockey tournament and the traditional Skate the Lake on New Year’s Eve, netted between $8,000 and $10,000 for the two organizations, Mohr said.

On New Year’s Eve about 1,000 people came to skate on the lake, see beautifully carved ice sculptures and watch fireworks.

Kittredge residents Laura and Davis Burgess attended the event to celebrate their anniversary. They offered toasted marsh mellows to people gathered around a fire barrel beside the lake.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Laura. 

Emma Maisel, a student at Rocky Mountain Academy who recently moved to Evergreen from Arizona, was excited about trying to ice skate. 

“This is amazing,” she said of the event.

The Evergreen Lake House was packed with families getting ready to head onto the ice — some for the first time.

“A lot of people fall, and that’s OK,” said one youngster who was having a bit of trouble staying upright on the slick surface.

“This is really a great community event,” said staff member Rob Moore, who was checking people in at the door.

Of the 17 annual Skate the Lake events, only one was canceled because it was too warm and the ice wasn’t stable, said volunteer Art Gutierrez.

“I’ve been here for all,” he said.

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.