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Gary Thompson of Tri State Diving puts the finishing touches on the 2013 Polar Fest Plunge hole his team cut into Little Detroit Lake Saturday morning for the annual Polar Fest Plunge later that day. Brian Basham/Tribune

Good participation at Polar Fest despite cold

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Polar Fest has been deemed a success by many of those who braved the cold and the wind to make the winter festival happen.

The 10-day event wrapped up this past weekend, as thousands of people filtered on and off Little Detroit throughout the weekend for a variety of events, including Friday's Ice Tee Golf Tournament.

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With a nine-hole course carved into the ice and snow of the lake, 18 teams of four registered for the competition.

"It was a nice day; temps were good, and the sun was out," said Kim Bettcher who helped run the DLCCC-sponsored event. "The top scoring teams this year were BTD, the Zorbaz team and Mackner Excavating."

The DLCCC also sponsored the Freeze Your Buns Run the following morning, as 77 brave runners ignored the cold conditions and tackled the 5-K event.  

"The wind chill was below zero, but we had runners unzipping jackets by the time they finished," laughed Bettcher, who says the overall winner in the male category was Jason Stallman of Detroit Lakes, as Laurie Yliniemi took the female category.  

Although the winners did receive a $25 gift certificate to the community center, the idea behind the event was to raise money for youth programming at the DLCCC.

Events throughout Polar Fest were run by several different organizations, which all benefited from their events, including the ever popular Polar Fest Plunge.  

The Saturday event brought out roughly 600 people for the Boys and Girls Club fundraiser. Club Director Pat Petermann said this year, 15-20 mile per hour winds from the south may have scared a few people away from jumping, but they were still only two jumpers shy of a record number.  

"We had 229 jumpers this year, and they just did an awesome job," said Petermann. "We had bleachers built out of piles of snow, and they were stacked five, six, seven deep to watch."  

Team by team, community members from around the region showed their support of the non-profit youth club by first announcing how much much they raised for the club and then sealing it with a plunge into the icy waters.

"Senator Eken came out and jumped at the last minute, and a young gal from Texas who had never seen snow before thought it'd be cool to jump, and so she did," said Peterman.  

Noticeably different this year though was the absence of the hot tubs that were replaced by a large warming tent.  

Petermann said not only were the hot tubs incredibly expensive to rent, but they didn't always do the job.

"They're supposed to raise people's body temperature before jumping in, and they would do a good job for the first jumpers, but after about 75 people, the water was only luke warm," said Petermann, who admits the warming tents didn't work quite as planned this year either.  

"We wanted them to be up around 85 degrees, but we had so many people going in and out, that they were only at about 75 degrees," he says, adding that planners continue to search for the best way of doing things for the event that has grown significantly over the years.

 "I think next year we will probably try having two warming tents...one specifically for the jumpers," said Petermann, who couldn't have been happier about the turn-out and the funds raised.

"We don't have the numbers yet for how much was raised, but I suspect that it will be a record year," he said, adding that last year the event raised $45,500.  "And this is so crucial to our operating budget. It's our biggest fundraiser of the year."

For the second year, the Detroit Lakes Jaycees were also lending a hand to the Boys and Girls Club, as they served up drinks and meals from the Pavilion.

"Once the Polar Plunge started, it got pretty busy there," said Nick Omberg, one of the Jaycees that helped head up the charity event at the Pavillion. "We had jumping games, a coloring contest, bean bag games... It was pretty steady busy for about five hours."

Omberg said just in food alone, they likely raised around $1,000 for the club.

The bulk of the festival wrapped up Saturday night with free hot cocoa and a public fireworks display down at the public beach.

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