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A frozen end to Winterfest

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Zach Dingmann, assistant principal at Prairie Elementary, jumps into a mostly-frozen Lake Okabena Sunday afternoon. Dingmann was one of 35 people who participated in the Deep Freeze Dip — together they raised over $16,000 for the Wayne Klumper HEALS fund. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)2 / 4
(Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)3 / 4
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WORTHINGTON — With an enthusiastic sun shining over Lake Okabena Sunday afternoon, 35 area do-gooders voluntarily leaped into the 34-degree water, amazing and amusing an extensive group of bystanders.

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“This is our first time at the Deep Freeze Dip,” said one fashionably bundled spectator, Kim Maxwell of Worthington. “Our daughter, Karissa, wanted to see her fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Dingmann, jump in.”

And despite a 23-hour postponement (due to the blizzard-like conditions occurring earlier on Saturday), Zach Dingmann was indeed among the nearly three dozen brave — or thrill-seeking — people who took the plunge for a good cause.

“The staff and kids were great,” praised Dingmann, now an assistant principal at Prairie Elementary, of his school’s support for his frigid effort. “I was ‘volun-told’ to do this.”

Emcee Chad Cummings of KWOA/RadioWorks teased and questioned each jumper before the big moment, noting it was the Deep Freeze Dip’s fifth year in Worthington.

“All the jumpers were required to raise at least $250, and one raised over $700,” said Cummings.

This year’s proceeds are going to the Wayne Klumper HEALS fund, which will support youth recreation programs in Nobles County, while the first two years’ donations went to the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight and the preceding two years’ pledges funded the Jami Cummings Learn to Swim program.

“There’s no overhead, and all the money stays right here in Nobles County,” Cummings added.

Wayne Klumper’s two sons, Dan and Joe, were the first jumpers of the day, closely followed by Andy Johnson, executive director of the Worthington Area YMCA/DeGroot Family Center.

Johnson was bedecked with angel wings and a halo, but after letting out an audible grunt while submerging, the halo disappeared from his head.

“The jump was very cold,” admitted Johnson, who also co-chaired the 2014 Winterfest activities and won the People’s Choice award in Friday night’s chili cook-off. “The weather is better today than yesterday, but the water doesn’t get any warmer.”

Jumper No. 10 was Jason Winselman, of whom Cummings asked, “Have you ever jumped into 34-degree water before?”

“Not sober,” Winselman uttered, eliciting a wave of laughs from the rows of onlookers.

Jodi Busch, as Jumper No. 25, had planned to mark her 40th birthday on Saturday with her freezing dip, but the postponement meant she was a day older. Still, the crowd helped make her milestone memorable, singing “Happy Birthday” to her as she emerged, dripping, from the watery hole.

JBS Human Resources Director Jenny Andersen-Martinez looked reluctant before her jump.

“This seemed like a good idea from my 70-degree office a few days ago,” she said.

Other YMCA staff plunging in, largely in honor of longtime YMCA employee and youth advocate Wayne Klumper, included program director C.J. Nelson, aquatics director Stephanie Gorman and Y-Pals coordinator Greg Wede.

“I’m doing the job Wayne used to do, and I’m not sure I’m doing it as well as he did,” joked Nelson.

Attested Wede, “This is a great cause. I love Wayne, and am glad I’m able to do this.”

The Frosty Riders Snowmobile Club sold hot chocolate and other cold weather treats on the lakeshore, while the 2014 Winterfest Snow Queen, Worthington High School sophomore Morgan LeBrun, watched the proceedings approvingly.

“This is fun, and it’s cool to be recognized this way,” said LeBrun, the daughter of Bill and Patty LeBrun of Reading. Fittingly, the Snow Queen revealed she likes sledding, snowmobiling and making snowmen during the winter months.

“My favorite winter activity is shoveling the driveway,” joked LeBrun’s mom, Patty.

As the recovering jumpers and chattering spectators walked away from Lake Okabena after about 35 minutes in the nearly 40-degree air, one first-time jumper wore a big smile — along with more clothing than he’d sported during his lake plunge.

“It was nothing major,” Bradley Jansma grinned. “Just my feet are a little cold. But I raised close to $600, and I would definitely do it again.”