Thrills, chills — and a few spills — at 18th annual Ice Fest

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New Year’s event draws record-setting attendance

By Sandy Barnes

Waiting in line to take their first leap into icy waters at the Evergreen Lake Plunge on New Year’s Day, three friends were wondering what to expect.

“Horrible!” proclaimed 11-year-old Dylan Barker while making his way toward the warmth of the changing room with buddies Hunter Fildey and Cody Boscoe, who dived with him.

The three boys were in good company, with more than 250 people jumping into lake during the event, which benefited Drive Smart and the Evergreen Park and Recreation District’s special-needs program.

“I didn’t think it was possible to feel so cold,” said Gabrielle Gionet, who made the plunge with sisters Genevieve and Camille for the second time.

Dressed in black-and-white penguin outfits, the Gionet girls formed a team with sisters Delany and Palmer Peterson.

Two other sisters who were repeat lake plungers said the water felt colder this year than in the past.

“That was literally the worst 10 seconds of my life. My feet are turning purple,” Emma Sears said while running out of the lake with her sister Becca.

“It’s a shock when you get out,” said Barb Street, who took the leap with her son Bryce.

Jackie Mohr, executive director of Drive Smart, who also made her traditional plunge with daughter Isabella, said that people often wonder just how cold the water is.

“It’s kind of funny,” she said.

Ice freezes at 32 degrees, and the lake water is just above that temperature, Mohr explained.

Those who participated wore an array of costumes, from traditional swimsuits to the more flamboyant. Matt Mortier dove in the lake wearing a pink ballet skirt and Viking hat.

Donned in a tuxedo and carrying a black umbrella, John Sawyer took a more dignified leap.

“We’ve done this a bunch of years,” Sawyer said. “It’s for a good cause.”

“This was by far our best year,” Mohr said of the Lake Plunge and of Skate the Lake on New Year’s Eve.

Nearly 4,000 people attended Skate the Lake, an alcohol-free family event with music and two rounds of fireworks.

A long line of attendees were waiting to get into the Lake House at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

“This is going to be such a fun night,” said Hannah Garner, who came to the event with her sisters, all of whom were ice skating for the first time.

As they slid unsteadily onto the ice, the girls said they had been practicing by roller-blading.

“This is totally different,” said Hannah.

An hour later, the lake was filled with skaters, ice hockey players, and with those who enjoyed watching by warm fires around the perimeter.

At the Evergreen Nature Center, people had the opportunity to make and record New Year’s promises during the event.

Evergreen resident Steve Bond had created a New Year’s promise wall on which they could write promises, rather than resolutions.

“It’s to get people to commit to their word,” he said.

Bond said he got the idea while reading about a promise wall in a magazine.

Among the inscriptions were, “Be kind and “To be a better father.”

Bond has lived in Evergreen for 18 years with his family and has attended most of the Skate the Lake events.

The first time his family attended, Bond said, it was as if someone had thrown a party for them.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.