Extra cold: Lack of heated water makes Polar Pig Splash even colderWhen all the pledges are paid, the 16 doing the “Walk the Plank for Hospice” Saturday will have raised close to $11,000 for Jamestown Hospital’s program. At this point, it’s still hovering around $10,000, the same as last year. The fifth year of the annual event brought more jumpers, more chili samplers and more supporters to Stutsman Harley-Davidson, the host site for the Polar Pig Splash. The splash is organized by members of the Harley Owners Group, led by Don Wegner, who plays master of ceremonies “Capt. Jack” and makes people walk the plank.
When all the pledges are paid, the 16 doing the “Walk the Plank for Hospice” Saturday will have raised close to $11,000 for Jamestown Hospital’s program. At this point, it’s still hovering around $10,000, the same as last year.
The fifth year of the annual event brought more jumpers, more chili samplers and more supporters to Stutsman Harley-Davidson, the host site for the Polar Pig Splash. The splash is organized by members of the Harley Owners Group, led by Don Wegner, who plays master of ceremonies “Capt. Jack” and makes people walk the plank.
“I guess I’m the spark plug for the event,” said Wegner, who puts in more than 120 hours getting ready for it. “I think it went really, really good this year. Each year it flows better.”
The fundraiser has costumed men and women from the community raising money to jump into a pool of water, usually heated to about 85 degrees. Saturday, however, the jumpers got a surprise. The heater wouldn’t work to warm the water and it was more like 50 degrees. But Wegner, who is the last to jump every year said it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.
“You’re so hyped up when you jump that you don’t really notice,” he said.
Still, the shock of hitting 50-degree water with the air temperature hovering around 10 degrees was obvious on the faces of jumpers. They paid at least $100 to be able to jump and it looked as though several of them were reconsidering that privilege.
Polar Pig Splash first-timer Thomas Blackmore, representing the Jamestown Clowns, said he’d raised between $700 and $800 as he handed over a wad of cash at the registration table. Blackmore or “Bowdeguard” the clown, as he was known Saturday, subsequently lost his wig and fake lei when he hit the water.
Mayor Katie Andersen, also a first-timer, raised $400 to jump. Before the leap and dressed as the “Cat in the Hat,” she recited a short poem parodying the Dr. Seuss children’s book.
The new sheriff in town also took a dunking for hospice. Fireworks were shot off throughout the splashing event, so in a short skit, Sheriff Chad Kaiser tried to make an arrest for disturbing the buffalo with the fireworks.
“We said ‘you’re all wet’ and into the water he went,” Wegner said.
Before heading outside for the jump, everyone had a chance to try samples of 18 different chili recipes in District 8 ABATE’s Chili Cook-off.
Jan Barnes, director of the Jamestown Hospital Foundation, receives the money for the hospice program. She said the Chili Cook-off raised $535.
“The chili feed went well,” she said. “And the silent auction went from $1,200 last year to $1,800 this year.”
The Polar Pig Splash has replaced the foundation’s annual hospice appeal, she said. It’s become the largest fundraiser for the program.
“I was very impressed with the amounts the jumpers were bringing in,” she said. “Pledges of $400 were not unusual this year. And Don always brings in a huge amount of money ($2,000 this year). I’m very thankful for all of them and what they do for hospice.”
The hospital also sends in a jumper to represent the hospice team. This year, Barnes said, the foundation did a used book sale and raised $1,045. Hospice Coordinator Maren Radi took one for the team Saturday jumping as “Hard Hat Hattie.” The rest of the Home Health Care staff plus hospital President Marty Richman stood outside in the cold and snow to cheer her on.
While there was a group outside to cheer and back away from cannonballs into the pool, a large group of less hearty souls stood inside watching the event. Wegner estimated the splash must have drawn about 200 people.
“It was very successful and everyone had fun,” he said. “It gave people something to do and raised money for a good cause. Hospice is something you don’t want to ever have to use, but something we need to have available.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com