Back to normal? Polar Plunge returns as lake resumes community-driven events

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Polar Plunge participants fight the chill of the cold water during the 2019 event in Osage Beach.

What a year it has been since Polar Plunge 2020. The event served as one of the final in-person community events at the lake during that time frame. Less than a month later, the St. Patrick's Day Parade would be cancelled and the “busy” season of the lake following would be permanently impacted.

Fast forward to February 2021, things are looking better. The lake is soon to host multiple back-to-back weekends filled with community events, including Eagle Days and the previously mentioned St. Patrick's Day Parade. While these events may look different in operation to what was seen years before, many businesses and residents around the lake are hoping the Polar Plunge this weekend will be the start to a return to normality.

Crystal Schuster, Developmental Director for Missouri Olympics Missouri and Polar Plunge organizer, says the event has over 170 registered participants. This is down from the normal 250-300, but is still a positive number to see. According to the event’s official website, over $50,000 has already been raised.

Schuster says that, more than anything, it’s thrilling to be able to resume fundraising efforts for the Special Olympics. Many athletes within the organization were left without any competition throughout 2020. Schuster says they hope to resume normal activities this year. She says they are excited to give participants a way to get back into a large community event and help fundraise for such a positive reason.

A few changes will be seen at the Polar Plunge this year. Instead of hosting a costume contest in one large event, teams will be judged as they individually compete in their heats. Instead of large heats running into the water, individual teams will run one at a time to keep social distancing possible. As teams approach the starting line, they will allow the judges to view their costumes and judging will conclude at the end of the event.  Teams will also be spaced out in the holding area before heats begin instead of being bunched together tightly.

Mike Clayton, Mix 92.7 broadcaster and event speaker for the Polar Plunge, has been taking part in the event for all 26 years of its existence. Clayton says that, alongside the important funds being raised, the Polar Plunge is also important for the lake as a whole this year. He says that it will help reinstall a sense of normalcy in the area and give people hope for the return of annual events.

Clayton says that he believes the lake and its residents are not whole without events such as the Polar Plunge, where opportunities to give back are possible.

“There are so many businesses and people in this area that give back. It’s one of the things the lake is known for,” Clayton said.

Clayton believes that this event will help set the tone for the beginning of the season at the lake. With so many events coming up, it would seem that the lake is at the starting line for a return to normal community involvement and opportunities.

See more: Polar Plunge returns to the lake Feb. 27

The Polar Plunge will be held in support of Special Olympics Missouri at the Osage Beach Public Beach 2 on Feb. 27 at 2:00 p.m.