Deep Freeze Dip raises funds for Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight
WORTHINGTON -- The gasps and exclamations that arose from the depths of Lake Okabena along with the participants were indicative of just how cold the water was Saturday for the Deep Freeze Dip in Worthington.
"Sweet mother of all that's cold!"
Other dippers were silent -- the powers of speech literally knocked right out of them by the shocking chill.
What would compel more than 40 individuals to take a flying leap into water that as of 2 p.m. on Saturday was measured at just above freezing -- a "balmy" 34 degrees in the 8- by 10-foot hole cut in the ice?
At the heart of most of the participants' motives was the cause -- Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight, which aims to send area World War II veterans to see the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.
Jill Cuperus of Wilmont proudly wore the names of her two grandfathers and their wartime accomplishments emblazoned on the back of her T-shirt as she jumped into the body-numbing water. Unlike many of the other Deep Freeze divers, she knew exactly what awaited her at the end of the jump, having participated in a similar event during her college days in LaCrosse, Wis.
"I think people just think I'm crazy for doing it again," she said as she signed a waiver form prior to the start of the event on Saturday afternoon. "The biggest reason I'm doing it is for Honor Flight. Both my grandfathers were vets, and they're both gone. So many of these guys are going so fast, and they deserve to see their memorial.
"I wish both my grandpas were around to see it," she added, tears shining in her eyes.
Cuperus wasn't the only one to don special attire for the Deep Freeze Dip. Some of the more unusual getups included a Minnesota Vikings jersey and golden braids in support of the football team's appearance Sunday in the NFC championship; a T-shirt imprinted with a sexy bikini; Worthington police officer Kirk Schelhaas in one of the orange jumpsuits usually worn by jail inmates; the Rev. Richard Ricker as "The Preaching Elvis" and a T-shirt that stated "Hello Dumb-Dumb," perhaps expressing the wearer's feelings about the task he was about to undertake.
In one notable case, it was about what didn't get worn.
"I was offered an extra $1,000 if I'd wear a Speedo," said Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh, ,who instead donned a pair of swim trunks and Mardi Gras beads for the dunking experience, explaining that he'd worn the Speedo the night before at the annual Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce banquet -- over the top of his pants. The swimsuit that was a requirement of the added incentive turned out to be a woman's bikini, and the Speedo presented at the banquet as a replacement was also skimpier than Oberloh was willing to model in public, he later explained.
But Oberloh had another challenge and chance to increase his pledge dollars. Both he and Chad Cummings, who served as emcee on Saturday afternoon and was one of the Deep Freeze Dip organizers, were challenged to jump in twice by Mark and Suzanne Hagen, owners of Hagen Distributing in Worthington and were bestowed with an additional $1,000 when they both succumbed to a second frosty dunking.
Angela Anderson had the privilege of being the first to test the waters on Saturday -- taking the initial plunge as hundreds of spectators cheered her on.
"It was exhilarating once you caught your breath," she said as she quickly stripped off her wet clothing in the comfort of a nearby ice house following the inaugural dive.
Several of the other female participants echoed her sentiments after their turn in the water.
"I feel great," said Amanda Walljasper. "I feel like, 'Let's go run a marathon.'"
"You do feel great afterward,' concurred Gayla Aljets. "If it wasn't for standing there for so long before and your feet getting cold and wet, it was a piece of cake. It as warmer than I thought it was going to be. It's really not that bad."
The final dive of the day was taken by Cummings -- a belly flop on his second time around that sent plumes of water flying over the edge of the ice and spectators scurrying back to the warmth of their vehicles.