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"It was fantastic, refreshing, invigorating and, indeed, life-affirming," said second-time Polar Plunge jumper Ian Heriot. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

'Go jump in a lake:' Polar Plunge big draw at winter celebration

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With temperatures above zero, it was a balmy afternoon for Bemidji's annual Brrrrmidji Polar Daze festival compared to years past -- or even the past week.

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Highlighted by the Jaycees Polar Plunge, the celebration this year also featured an ice-fishing contest and build-your-own sled derby contest for children. (A planned broomball tournament was canceled.)

With the temperature at just about 10 degrees, it was at least 15 degrees warmer than last year.

"It was a lot better than last year," said Jacquelyn Wagner, who took part in her second Polar Plunge jump. "Last year you jumped in the water and didn't want to get out of it."

Wagner said she decided to take part again because she has a good time and the money benefits a good cause, the Bemidji Special Olympics chapter.

Lindsey Oldin, 14, taking part for the first time, said she is used to jumping in cooler water.

"I didn't think it was cold," she said.

Oldin jumped simultaneously with a friend, Tasha Schlichting.

"I thought it would be cool and it would help a good cause," said Oldin, a TrekNorth freshman.

About 90 jumpers this year took part in the plunge.

"It was fantastic, refreshing, invigorating and, indeed, life-affirming," said second-time participant Ian Heriot, who made his jump wearing a pair of antlers.

Other events also drew large numbers of participants.

The first Beaver Pride Ice Fishing Contest drew between 250 and 300 people, according to Beaver Pride Coordinator Wray Wright.

About 125 people had pre-registered for the event, held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but people were continuing to register up until at least 11:30 a.m., he said.

Awards were given to the first 50 fish caught, and Wright said, those awards were gone by 11:45 a.m.

"It's been really good," Wright said, noting that the contest is planned to be an annual event.

For the children, a Build Your Own Sled Derby contest attracted 45 kids as entrants. Children ages 5-12 were invited to make a sled out of cardboard, plastic, wood or inner tubes.

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