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Four students from Oak Hills Bible College jump into Lake Bemidji as part of the 2012 Bemidji Jaycees’ Brrrmidji Plunge. Bemidji Pionee File Photo
Four students from Oak Hills Bible College jump into Lake Bemidji as part of the 2012 Bemidji Jaycees’ Brrrmidji Plunge. Bemidji Pionee File Photo

Polar Daze: Brrrmidji Plunge marks 10th year

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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI – Call it an introduction to northern Minnesota culture.

A pair of friends, one from southern California and one from Mexico, a few years ago happened to stumble upon crews preparing for the annual Brrrmidji Plunge.

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They asked what was going on and were told about the annual Plunge.

“We’re going to cut a hole here in the lake and then jump into the lake,” said Dave Brooks, recalling the conversation from about four years ago. “They looked at us and said, ‘What ice?’”

The pair didn’t even realize they were standing on top of a frozen lake and, as the hole was cut and water came up and over the ice, they scurried to shore.

“They high-tailed it off the lake,” Brooks said. “They never knew you could walk on the ice, let alone drive a car on the ice.”

This year will mark the 10th annual Bemidji Jaycees Brrrmidji Plunge, set for 11 a.m. Jan. 18 out on Lake Bemidji at the waterfront.

“It’s a fun event,” said Char Blashill, who co-chaired the first Plunge in 2004 with Janna (Wackerfuss) Schiltz. “It’s always fun to be down there (at the waterfront) when they’re cutting the ice. It’s a neat thing that they do.”

Brooks, a former co-chair for the Plunge and a Paul Bunyan Broadcasting employee who emcees the event each year, said it highlights the annual Polar Daze celebration throughout town.

“It’s one of those events that if you’ve never done it, if you’ve never seen it, it’s something that you want to be a part of in one way or another, even to just see it,” he said. “This is something that really is kind of special. It’s only gotten bigger and bigger over the years.”

Indeed, the first year, 2004, drew 35 registrants, of which 34 made the jump into freezing waters.

Last year, 111 people took the plunge.

“The anticipation of jumping is the worst part, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh I have to actually jump in that,’” Blashill said.

She wanted to jump the first year, but was pregnant and her doctor advised against it. In 2005, when she was serving as Jaycees president, she offered a challenge: She would jump if the chapter raised a certain amount of donations. It came down to the final half-hour, but the visiting state Jaycees president donated the last $50 to make her take the plunge.

“I recommend it to anyone,” Blashill said. “It should be on everybody’s bucket list.”

A range of people have taken part in the event other the years. Plungers have included not just Minnesotans, Canadians and North and South Dakotans, but also residents of Australia, Germany and Columbia.

Brooks provides the flags that are installed around the ice hole to not only draw attention to the location of the event, but also to mark the states and countries from which participants have traveled.

“It definitely adds an international flavor to it,” he said. “This is where these people have come from, all these different states, all these different countries.”

The Brrrmidji Plunge raises money for local organizations. There is no registration fee for the event, but plungers must bring in at least $30 in pledges.

Benefactors of the event change each year, but past recipients include the Special Olympics and the Battered Women’s Shelter. This year, proceeds will benefit the Bemidji Community Food Shelf and Habitat for Humanity.

Crystal Hegg, who is co-chairing this year’s Plunge with Abby Jackson, said that with it being the 10th annual Plunge, the Jaycees are hoping for a bigger-than-ever turnout this month.

“A lot will dress up in costumes,” she said.

Pre-registration isn’t required, though the Jaycees welcomes those that opt to do so. Anyone interested in taking part in the Plunge can find the registration and pledge forms online at bemidji.mnjaycees.org. Same-day registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Tourist Information Center.

Polar Daze Events

Friday, Jan. 18

5:30-9 p.m. Parent’s Night Out. Parents can drop off their children aged 3-12 (fully potty trained) to get a few hours out alone. Children will make crafts, play games and enjoy snacks. $15/child. Registration: ci.bemidji.mn.us. Class size limited to 10.

Saturday, Jan. 19

10:30 a.m. 5K Polar Challenge Run/Walk, at First Lutheran Church, Ninth Street Northwest and Bemidji Avenue North. Registration is 9-10 a.m., event begins at 10:30 a.m. $20 for race-day registration.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Chow Hound Chili Feed, fundraiser for Beltrami Humane Society at the Classic Hard Times Saloon, 119 3rd St. NW.

 11 a.m. Brrrmidji Plunge, Lake Bemidji waterfront. Participants jump into Lake Bemidji to raise money for the Bemidji Community Food Shelf and Habitat for Humanity. Registration at bemidji.mnjaycees.org. Participants must bring in a minimum of $30 in pledges. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., the Plunge begins at 11 a.m.

 1 p.m. Boy Scouts Sled Derby, outside Tourist Information Center. Kids, aged 5-12 in three age groups, build their own sleds to complete for first-, second-, and third-place prizes; all participants receive a ribbon. Sleds, to be built out of cardboard, plastic, wood or inner tubes, must be capable of sliding down the hill at least once. $3.

2 p.m. Halfway to Dragon Boars Cornhole Tournament, Hampton Inn & Suites Conference Center. Teams compete, indoors, for in the traditional summertime cornhole (bean bag toss) competition. $20 per team. Proceeds go toward a scholarship for Northwest Technical College students. Registration: evants@bemidji.org.

Thursday, Jan. 24

4 and 6 p.m. Taste of Northern Minnesota, at the Sanford Center’s George W. Neilson Convention Center. The annual event features foods from regional businesses. Same-day prices: $16 for 4 p.m. seating, $18 for late seating, $12 for seniors 60 years and older and students with valid identification.

Friday, Jan. 25

6:30 p.m. Montebello Nite Ski. 5 p.m. registration, 6 p.m. children’s 2K, then 6K classical and freestyle race. $10 for adults, $20 for families of three or more.

Saturday, Jan. 26

10 a.m. Bemidji Snowmobile Tour. Ride along local trails through Bemidji State Park. Bring your own snowmobile and helmet. Snowmobile State Trail sticker is required. 308-2300.

Noon Beaver Pride Hardwater Classic Ice Fishing Contest on Lake Bemidji. More than $20,000 in prizes. $30 adults, $20 students, $15 kids 12 and under. Registration: 2 p.m. Halfway to Dragon Boars Cornhole Tournament, Hampton Inn & Suites Conference Center. Teams compete, indoors, for in the traditional summertime cornhole (bean bag toss) competition. $20 per team. Proceeds go toward a scholarship for Northwest Technical College students. Registrationis online at evants@bemidji.org.

Thursday, Jan. 24

4 and 6 p.m. Taste of Northern Minnesota, at the Sanford Center’s George W. Neilson Convention Center. The annual event features foods from regional businesses. Same-day prices: $16 for 4 p.m. seating, $18 for late seating, $12 for seniors 60 years and older and students with valid identification.

Friday, Jan. 25

6:30 p.m. Montebello Nite Ski. 5 p.m. registration, 6 p.m. children’s 2K, then 6K classical and freestyle race. $10 for adults, $20 for families of three or more.

Saturday, Jan. 26

 10 a.m. Bemidji Snowmobile Tour. Ride along local trails through Bemidji State Park. Bring your own snowmobile and helmet. Snowmobile State Trail sticker is required. 308-2300.

Noon Beaver Pride Hardwater Classic Ice Fishing Contest on Lake Bemidji. More than $20,000 in prizes. $30 adults, $20 students, $15 kids 12 and under. Registrationis online at www.hardwaterclassic.org.

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