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Frigid Fans Make a Splash for Juniata Valley YMCA - abc27 WHTM

Frigid Fans Make a Splash for Juniata Valley YMCA

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Long before the crowds arrived at Greenwood Furnace State Park, there was snow to be moved for the skaters, wood to be split for the bonfire, food to be prepped for the chilled and ice to be cleared for the brave.

"We have a balmy 26 degrees in the water here at Greenwood Furnace today," declared a volunteer as he pulled a thermometer from the icy lake.

It was ideal conditions for the forth annual Penguin Polar Plunge. A fundraiser event for the Juniata Valley YMCA.

"We do all kinds of youth programming, from summer camps to soccer," explained YMCA Program Director Stacey Falkner. "So, it kind of fills in the gaps. Allows us to keep the prices down for the kids. And to serve a larger portion of the community."

But this year, the event was expanded into a winter festival, beginning with a family fun walk and run around the park's snow covered lake.

"It was fantastic. It was great," declared runner Lisa Radel of Boalsburg. "It's nice being out here. It's a beautiful trail. I love winter."

And in the spirit of the icy surroundings, historian Paul Fagley demonstrated how frozen lakes, like the one they were enjoying, once provided livelihoods.

"Little more than a century ago, you really couldn't make ice. You had to harvest it and store it," Fagley explained to a small group huddled under a wind swept pavilion.

As time closed in on the main event, a mushrooming crowd struggled to stay warm in the brisk, 20 degree weather.

At 11:00 am, the hearty charged into the frigid water.

Colorful costumes, team outfits and choreographed splashdowns were the order of the day. Plungers were encouraged and energized by cheers and laughter from the surrounding crowd. But the loudest ovation accompanied one man from his wheelchair, to his walker, into the water and back. An inspiring effort the unidentified man seemingly took in stride.

With icy water dripping from his face, he cheerfully proclaimed to my camera: "That was bracing, invigorating...and a little cold!"

Park manager Mike Dinsmore declared the day a big success, with an eye to returning visitors throughout the winter.

"The big thing with the winter fest is to get the people out and enjoy the outdoors," he said. "And to show them some things they can do in this kind of weather."

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