Laughs and shrieks rung out across the park in Cave Spring as the jumpers made waves across the lake and a few brave participants took a leisurely swim across to the other side and back again.
Josh Cook took it a step further when he jumped in a second and third time, drawing further yells of encouragement from the side of the pool and a few of his family members who also participated.
“It was fun,” said Cook. “I saw it in the newspaper and I thought it was a good cause with the money going to the cabin.”
The first ever Polar Plunge raised approximately $1,500 for the Cave Spring Historical Society to help purchase and restore the Cherokee log cabin in town. After the plunge, participants joined non-jumpers for a meal of greens, black-eyed peas, pork and cornbread.
The event was born from an idea of Mike Ragland, a member of the society. He recalled a local friend’s experience of a benefit plunge at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell for Clemson University. He figured that if people also flock to New York’s Coney Island annually for the tradition, he could make it happen at the spring-fed Rolater Lake.
“It will turn you blue in August,” said Ragland. “I thought, ‘Let’s see how many tough boys and girls and Yankee immigrants and rednecks and good ole boys and girls that’ll come on down and jump in this thing.’ Look at them, in the rain, they’re coming!”
Ragland originally expected 10 or 12 people to brave the waters. With the surprisingly larger turnout, he expects hundreds more for next year’s event.
Kristin Woodruff, 14, of Rome, said she enjoyed the jump as she clutched a towel while drying off.
“Hitting the water was really cold,” said Kristin. “I couldn’t feel my body.”