From the Netherlands to Lake Lure
Standing on the shore of Lake Lure New Year's Day more than 200 people waited for the count down — three, two, one — before running into the cold water for the 2014 Polar Plunge.
Participants wore a variety of clothes to jump in the lake including bikinis, a Santa Claus suit, one man was in a President Obama mask and two Queens donned fur coats.
Santa Claus arrived in full attire but was disqualified from the plunge because he wore a wet suit underneath the red pants and shirt.
Temperatures along the shore were 45 degrees, a warm and drier day than some of the other five previous Polar Plunge events. Water temperature was about 41 degrees.
"Not as cold as I thought," one plunger testified running out of the water.
Melissa Johnson ran out of the water nearly as fast as she ran in. "Well, it didn't stop my heart like it did last year."
"I can't feel my feet," said one plunger as they gathered around a bonfire on the beach.
People traveled from as far away as the Netherlands and as close as Lake Lure to brave the cold water and to raise money for The Chamber of the Hickory Nut Gorge.
Lake Lure Mayor Bob Keith and Mary Jaeger-Gale, general manager of Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, were judges.
When emcee Ken Potter introduced the plunger who traveled the furthest he said,
"And he swam here." Jos Van Ach't of The Netherlands received that award. He was in the area vacationing.
Jack McCurdy, 3, of Clemmons was the youngest plunger.
"I'm real cold," he said, walking out of the water with his mom Kendra.
When asked what he wanted to do next, "I want to go back to my tent."
The oldest plunger award went to Bill Workman, 69, of Lake Lure. It was his second or third consecutive year to claim the senior award, said Keith.
Four Forest City friends, Kortney Humphries, Merri Wilkins, Dallas Moore and Julio Valdez, had their bellies painted white and each belly had the numbers to spell 2-0-1-4. They each received Polar Plunge sweat shirts for plunging.
"This is the first year for us," Humphries said. "But we wanted to come and do this."
The Brewer family from Naples, Fla. have attended several times and returned again on Wednesday to plunge.Lauryn, Meredith, Taylor Brewer and a friend, Harley Squittier, were vacationing at Rumbling Bald. They were attired in black and white striped pajamas.
Trish Berry and Jordan Berry of Hickory wore the most popular costumers as President Barack Obama and former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin. Traveling with the dignitaries was secret service agent, Mick Berry. They received the Best Costume award.
When the Berrys stepped forward to receive their award, Obama did the speaking for the three, "Well, let me be clear. The water was very cold . . . looking forward."
Samuel Betz, 6, and his dad Dan Betz drove from Wilmington to watch the water plunge.
"We're coming back next year," Betz said.
They were among more than 200 spectators.
"I had a wonderful time," said spectator Kay Stott of Marion. "We come every year and next year I'm thinking about getting a moose suit and jumping in."
Keith and Jaeger-Gale thanked the plungers and spectators. They said the event was "tremendously successful."
Everyone who plunged paid a registration fee of $20 and all received a monogrammed toboggan. All proceeds benefitted the Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge.
"The chamber will be able to do a lot of good things with this," Keith said.
After the Lake Lure plunge, some others went to the Geneva Motel and jumped into the Rocky Broad River at 2 p.m.