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Chillin' time in Bemidji as Brrrmidji Plunge draws large interest

Stacy Ness, left, and Jeremiah Freye took part in the annual Brrrmidji Plunge Saturday in Lake Bemidji. The duo, dressed as Jessie and Woody from the "Toy Story" films, were among 103 people registered for the event. Proceeds from the Plunge benefit the Bemidji Community Food Shelf and Bemidji Soup Kitchen. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 3
The Ludlow family celebrated its relatively recent move (14 months ago) to Bemidji from California by jumping into freezing Lake Bemidji waters Saturday as part of the Brrrmidji Plunge. From left are Guy, 10, dad Brian, and Ruby, 7. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 3
Four students from Oak Hills Bible College jump into Lake Bemidji Saturday afternoon as part of the Bemidji Jaycees' Brrrmidji Plunge. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer3 / 3

As the Ludlows enthusiastically jumped into the freezing waters of Lake Bemidji Saturday afternoon, you'd never guess they weren't from around here.

The family moved from California to Bemidji 14 months ago, when Brian Ludlow joined Bemidji State University as a professor.

Three Ludlows - Brian, the dad; Guy, 10, and Ruby, 7 - were among 105 people who jumped into Lake Bemidji during the Brrrmidji Plunge, the feature event of the annual Polar Daze celebration. The Plunge, organized by the Bemidji Jaycees, raised funds for the Bemidji Community Food Shelf and Bemidji Soup Kitchen.

"It was fun. It was really cold. I'll never do it again," Guy said.

But all were laughing, warming up in a van parked atop the frozen lake near the Plunge site. Ruby, the youngest of the Plungers, was all smiles. Both Guy and Ruby are members of the NorthStar Swim Club, so the Plunge was right up their alley.

All around town, Polar Daze events drew large interest, despite the near-zero temperatures in the morning and the gusty winds throughout the day.

More than 140 people - 65 women and 77 men - ran in the 5K Polar Challenge Run/Walk in the morning. Kaysey Lichtenwater of Bemidji was the top female finisher and Nate Lien of Blackduck was the top male finisher.

Two food events - a pancake breakfast at the Paul Bunyan Activity Center and a Chili Cook-Off Contest for the Beltrami Humane Society - were also held.

But the main attraction was down at the Lake Bemidji waterfront, where hundreds of onlookers gathered on top of Lake Bemidji - the announcer said the lake had about a foot and a half to two feet of thick ice - and watched as more than a hundred people jumped, cannon-balled or waddled (one jumper was wearing a penguin costume) into the very cold water.

Jumpers wore costumes, bikinis, even footed pajamas.

One pair of jumpers was Paul Bunyan and his wife, Lucette (representing lore advanced by the city of Hackensack).

Paul Bunyan was played by Dr. Mike Headlee of Explore Chiropractic while Lucette was played by Lorrie Richardson. Celebrating Paul's 75th birthday this year, Headlee held onto a wrapped gift as he went into the water.

Their jump also celebrated the First City Yellow Ribbon Network, which strives to create awareness for the purpose of connecting service members and their families with community support, services and resources in the Bemidji area. The idea was, per the Paul Bunyan story that Paul Jr. was unable to take part in the jump because he is serving overseas.

Other jumpers' motivations were not quite as intricate. Many took part just for the pure fun of it all.

"Great, wonderful, cold," said Angie Benson after her jump into the water. Benson said she had once taken part in a similar event, but never before in Bemidji.

Benson jumped in the Plunge along with three others, all representing St. Cloud Youth Hockey, whose Squirts A were playing in a tournament here.

Also occurring Saturday near the waterfront was the annual Build Your Own Sled Derby, sponsored by the Boy Scouts. There were four entrants this year. Taking first place was Ellie Hoover with "Penguin." Two tied for second place, Christian Dermuth with "Bucky Mobile" and Shane Kolstad for "Torpedo." Third place went to Codey Dahl for "Dumptruck."