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Refreshing start to the new year

Craziness and new beginnings are reasons for annual polar dip in the Harrison River.
Participants brave chilly waters in the fourth annual Penguin Plunge at Kilby Provincial Park in Harrison Mills on New Year’s Day.

On a chilly, but sunny New Year’s Day at noon sharp, David Hay led a group of willing participants into the cold waters of the Harrison River.

His fourth annual Penguin Plunge drew about 50 people to Kilby Provincial Park in Harrison Mills, though most of them decided to spectate from the warmer shore near the blazing fire pits.

It’s his best turnout yet for the event that Hay started in 2013 as the solo swimmer with just his wife and neighbours watching.

“I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll do it,’” he said. “It wasn’t so bad, I actually enjoyed it. So I made up a web page and the next year some new neighbours decided to join me and a friend so there were five of us.”

Hay is slowly building the event, even trying some advertising to help grow participation every year. This year a group of the visitors camped at the park, and a core of regulars is starting to form.

The crew of 2016 consisted of five women and seven men, the oldest being a 55-year-old and the youngest in his 20s, according to Hay who is pleased with the age range.

And weather has been cooperative each of the four years he has organized the plunge.

“We’ve been blessed,” Hay said. “Four years in a row with sunshine and very little, if any breeze.”

However, that winter sun disappears early so closely surrounded by mountains, and the event wraps up by one.

So why do Hay and his people jump into cold outdoor water on a freezing day?

“Just the craziness I think,” he said, also adding that it’s not a bad hangover cure the day after one of the biggest parties of the year.

“At the end of the day I would say it’s just a fresh start—baptismal in the new year.”

For more photos and information about the Penguin Plunge visit