John Logan rides his mountain bike into Skaneateles Lake for the Polar Bear Plunge as a part of Winterfest.
The rules of the plunge say that plungers must submerge their whole body in the water, stay in for at least 10 seconds and though wetsuits are prohibited, shoes are mandatory. After exiting the water, they hurry back up to the warming tent to warm up around propane space heaters and change into dry clothes. The participants also had to sign a waiver due to the inherent risk of the plunge.
To ensure the safety of everyone involved, the Skaneateles Fire Department and SAVES were on hand to supervise the event. The fire department had to cut through four inches of ice to make a swimming area for the plunge, Marshall said.
“This is the biggest event as far as attracting the most people, the most energy and the most excitement,” Marshall said.
While some said they were doing the plunge for the good causes, the adrenaline rush or just the pure challenge motivated many of the plungers. “I just wanted to check it off the bucket list,” said Jason Banuski, a fist-time plunger, as he shivered next to a space heater at the warming tent. “I’m cold now, but it was absolutely worth it.”
One of the more lasting parts of Winterfest are the ice sculptures that are erected around town as part of the ice walk.
The team behind the sculptures is called The Ice Farm. Based in Auburn, the Ice Farm has been run as a full-time business by Stan Kolonko since 2006.
Businesses paid a $250 donation to have them made and either made arrangements with the Ice Farm for a personalized version of a previous design or were given “sculptor’s choice.” The Lightning Class sailboat sculpture displayed outside the Creamery was a new design this year that had never been done before.
Kolonko does most of his work in his freezer workshops located in Auburn and Syracuse, and does demonstrations and assembly of bigger pieces for events like Winterfest. The carvers use electric chain saws, Dremel tools, propane torches and warm water to shape and form the sculptures
Kolonko, who learned the skill in culinary school over 20 years ago, does sculptures for weddings, banquets, festivals and even international competition. Kolonko and his team of carvers won the World Ice Art Championships in 2006. Kolonko also plans on competing in the event, which is held in Fairbanks, Alaska, this year. The Ice Farm also has a freezing-cold museum planned for inside of Destiny USA in Syracuse, though there is no opening date lined up for that yet.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.