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shockingly fun

What do you get when you mix a bride and groom, Popeye, nerdy bankers, four clovers, coffee beans and Buffet fans? Throw them all in the lake and you have the 16th annual Polar Fest Plunge, the most successful plunge to date.

Far exceeding the number of plungers last year (175), and surpassing the goal for this year (200), 231 people plunged into Little Detroit Lake in support of the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes.

The No. 1 fundraiser for the club, the event brought in at least $44,000 this year, which is still preliminary, Executive Director Pat Petermann said.

"Weather, heated changing trailer and just a great group of volunteers making the environment fun," Petermann said was the recipe for their success this year.

He said there were a lot of walk-up plungers this year due to the nice weather (37 degrees) and because the event looked like fun.

"We had a lot of day-of decision makers. Nothing wrong with that," he added.

One of the biggest changes this year was location. The plunge moved east a tad, now located by the Pavilion. The Party in the Pavilion was free to attend; there were games set up for kids and adults, the Jaycees sold drinks and food, and those not wanting to sit out on the ice could watch the jump inside on the big screen.

"I think it was the right move. I think it was a good move," Petermann said.

Shifting more to focusing on families was another good change, he added.

"Everyone I talked to said the venue was good, the events and activities were well organized. That goes to the committee, the volunteers and our board who put in the effort to make things run smoothly," Petermann said.

He said the gaming didn't go as well as planned, but the committee is already cooking up ideas for next year to make improvements.

Another big change, one that plungers noticed the most, was the addition of a heated, lighted changing trailer.

"The changing trailer was the biggest hit," Petermann said. "Being able to change in a warm, dry, lit, insulated place made a difference for a lot of people."

With more spectators than average, and the Pavilion packed with people, it's no secret more people were out enjoying the nice weather and activities of Polar Fest.

"I think people walked away saying, 'now that was an event.' I had a lot of people tell me how organized it was, how well run it was, how fun it was," Petermann said.

While the goal was to raise $50,000, Petermann said they actually budgeted for $40,000, so they met and exceeded that goal. "We tried (for the $50,000), but gosh, the support is awesome. If we can stay in that $45,000 to $50,000 range every year, we'll be very happy."

Petermann said that more plungers were in costume this year than usual as well.

Winners of the group costume contest were the 5th grade Laker basketball team in first place, the DL Abby Normal for second place, and bride and groom for third.

Winners of the individual costume contest were Brooke Wenzel of La Barista for first place, Ryan McMullen of SJE Rhombus in second place, and Dr. Bill for "Scrubs" in third.

Other winners include Timothy Bernard, who raised at least $1,000 in pledges and won the cash drawing for $1,000; Dorothy Petermann won the $500 Central Market gift card; and Tim Gordon won the AstroStart and installation from Nereson Chevrolet.

"The extraordinary support of everybody is greatly needed and it happened," Petermann said. "This event wouldn't be successful without everyone involved, on a volunteer basis and the people coming to support it the day of and the people and businesses that support it prior to the event, the sponsors.

"It's a team effort, and we appreciate it at the Boys and Girls Club, and we'll continue to make this event bigger and better each year."