It was a memorable start to 2018 for 35 polar plungers who sprinted into icy water Monday afternoon at the fourth annual Hanging Rock Polar Plunge hosted by the Stokes County Arts Council.
“I can’t feel my toes,” said Wendy Cheek through a frozen smile, moments after coming out of the Hanging Rock Lake and onto shore.
Cheek signed up for the event weeks earlier when it was a little warmer, but said the wintry chill, which lingered around temperatures in the mid 20’s didn’t deter her, or her friend Julia Norman, from participating.
“This is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. We hike up here all the time and we’ve been looking forward to it,” she said.
Earlier in the day, park rangers and arts council volunteers delved into the water by boat to break up a thin layer of ice which had formed over much of the lake.
“It’s very, very cold,” said Stokes Arts Council Director Eddy McGee, who reminded folks the goal was to get in and out of the lake as quickly as possible. “It isn’t 43 degrees like last year. We’re not lingering in the water.”
And participants took note. Around 100 spectators and volunteers cheered the group on before making their way to Hanging Rock’s Historic Bathhouse to enjoy a variety of hot soups and drinks.
“We absolutely love it. It’s a great atmosphere,” said Travis Leonard, a member of the Old North State Beard Club. The club sponsored the event for the second year in a row and Leonard said he appreciates how it brings the community together.
“This is not for everyone, but it’s a whole lot of fun. We’re a club that gives back and we feel like the arts council is the same way. We appreciate all they do.”