Icy Antics In Mayville

MAYVILLE – The chilling temperatures and heavy traffic didn’t put a damper on the polar bear swim Saturday afternoon – some swimmers even did laps and made snow angels.

Dewittville Fire Department Chief Donald Emhardt, whose department handles the polar bear swim, recalled not having an ice castle last year due to above-freezing temperatures.

“We did the polar bear swim last year with only 3 inches of ice,” he said. “We didn’t even have an ice castle.”

Emhardt added the polar bear swim was a huge success this year; with Family Health Services’ Mayville office raising $1,400 for the Mayville Food Pantry. The total amount raised was not available Saturday evening.

In addition to the polar bear swim, the ice castle attracted a large crowd to the festival.

“We had more people this time due to the thick ice and the giant ice castle,” Emhardt said. “We had more people five years ago, but this year was the most we have had in a long time.”

Some people were jumping in more than once and others were swimming across and even making snow angels.

“That was new this year,” Emhardt said. “Maybe people felt like doing that because we had more ice.”

Emhardt said he and the other firefighters were in the water for two hours Saturday.

“We wore our cold water rescue suits,” he explained. “They are used for when we have to save someone in the lake.”

Emhardt added this is a great event every year.

“We act as the lifeguards for the event,” he said. “We just make sure people get in and out safely.”

Participants for the polar bear swim have to register before they jump and pay $10, which goes to the food pantry.

“They have to pay for the privilege of jumping into the ice water,” Emhardt said.

The polar bear swim is held only once during the three-day festival.

“We had about 35 people come out this year,” Emhardt said. “It is a great event every year.”

Fireworks closed Saturday’s slate at the Presidents Day Weekend Winter Festival, which concludes today with activities running from 11 a.m. until after 4 p.m.