New Year’s Day was a great day to go jump in the lake — Evergreen Lake, that is.
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Evergreen Lake Plunge participants lined up from the lake through the parking lot, waiting their turn to brave the frigid water to start 2023. This year, the plunge had the most participants in its 14-year history: 423. Compare that to last year’s 177 plungers.
As always, the event is a fundraiser for the Evergreen Park & Recreation District’s INSPIRE program for the special needs population. Plus Active4All, the plunge’s organizer that is EPRD’s foundation, helps pay fees for families who can’t afford to use the rec district’s facilities.
Alan Gionet, Active4All’s vice president and the event’s emcee, figures the plunge with help from its sponsors including title sponsor Buffalo Park Dentistry raised about $30,000, also an all-time high.
“We had people from all over the metro area,” Gionet said about the high attendance. “The crowd was great and having a great time. We aren’t sure what drove big numbers other than, we have fun. It’s outdoor fun in a beautiful place, and people seem to want to just get away from their devices and go jump in a lake. We’re all about it.”
First in line were sisters Stephanie Suzanne and Kelley Graham of Denver. Their first time plunging, the two attended church together in Evergreen before heading for the lake. They wore swimsuits and leggings under their church clothes, plus they brought warm clothes to change into after the plunge.
The two joked and laughed about what they were about to do, suggesting that the hole to jump in was larger than in past years, so big that they could swim laps in it.
“They’re making it a challenge,” Suzanne said, laughing. “We can’t just jump in and jump out.”
They decided the plunge was the perfect way to start 2023, hoping for a great year.
Suzanne joked she would do a triple gainer as she entered the water, but instead the sisters jumped hand-in-hand to applause from the other plungers waiting their turn.
“It was cold but exhilarating,” Graham said afterward while wearing a bathrobe. “It was awesome. We made it.”
Paul Faulkner of Evergreen, who wore a bathrobe as he stood in line, removed the warm attire before executing a belly flop as he entered Evergreen Lake.
Delain and Chris Mott of Evergreen jumped together. Before taking the plunge, Delain explained that she participated because, “I can do hard things. I hate cold water more than anything in the world, so after this, everything else is uphill.”
She even prepared for her plunge by taking cold showers to build up her endurance to cold water.
The mood was festive as the plungers and spectators watched the jumping, with Gionet adding commentary throughout the event. Volunteers grabbed the plungers’ clothes and shoes at the lakeshore and took them to tables, so plungers could begin the warm-up process after they jumped. The Muddy Buck coffee kiosk in the Evergreen Lake House parking lot was doing a brisk business.
Evergreen Fire/Rescue provided EMTs and firefighters to ensure everyone got out of the water safely.
“The rec district was a huge help, and we all had fun putting the event together," Gionet said. "The crowd was fantastic, patient and totally chill with the lines. We just talked to a couple who said half the fun was the party-like atmosphere in line.”
Some called the lake dip refreshing, while others were glad that the air temperature was in the high 30s rather than in the teens.
Emma Bebarta and Reza Behbakht, both of Greenwood Village, wore penguin costumes for the jump. They said they wore elf costumes last year.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Bebarta said. “We love the positive atmosphere and how happy everyone is.”
Behbakht added that the plunge on New Year’s Day was a moment for rebirth.
Kate Molieri and Heather Linne, both of Bailey, wore costumes, claiming they were members of the band Foreigner because they knew they would be "Cold as Ice” after plunging into the water.
“(The plunge) starts the year with a bang and a jump,” Linne said.
They held their noses as they jumped in, and after they climbed out, Molieri responded to a question on whether the water really was as cold as ice: “That and a little bit more.”
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