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Shocking start: About 60 people celebrate new year with plunge into chilly waters of Oak Harbor lagoon

Lilly Goodenough, 10, of Coupeville found the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day in Oak Harbor to be a chilling experience. About 60 people took the plunge into the lagoon at Windjammer Park in a first-time event organized by Flyers Restaurant and Brewery and the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. The plunge  followed a 5K run along the waterfront. See story and more photos on page A11 of today’s Whidbey News-Times.  - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Lilly Goodenough, 10, of Coupeville found the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day in Oak Harbor to be a chilling experience. About 60 people took the plunge into the lagoon at Windjammer Park in a first-time event organized by Flyers Restaurant and Brewery and the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. The plunge followed a 5K run along the waterfront. See story and more photos on page A11 of today’s Whidbey News-Times.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

It was one of the rare times Scott Dudley could be seen in public with his hair out of place.

However, it was clear to Oak Harbor’s mayor that a messy head of hair was a small price to pay for the fun he had with his family and with the community.

Dudley and his two teenage sons were among the brave souls who submerged themselves in the chilly saltwater as they participated in Oak Harbor’s first Polar Bear Plunge on an overcast New Year’s Day.

About 60 people took the noon plunge into the lagoon at Windjammer Park after roughly 120 participated in the 5K Resolution Run along the Oak Harbor waterfront.

Dudley covered the 5K course before cooling off in the lagoon.

“It was refreshing, invigorating,” Dudley said.

“It was very enjoyable.”

Not everyone shared that same sentiment as the shock of the cold water set in, especially the youngsters who gave it a try.

While some took the true plunge from the dock, the majority walked or ran into the water from the beach, with some reversing course almost immediately.

Jamie Goodenough, wearing a polar bear suit, and her four kids all held hands as they ran in.

“I kind of fell and took them all with me,” Goodenough said. “That outfit took me down.”

“It was awesome, Conner Goodenough, 7, said.

“It was freezing,” said his sister, Lilly, 10. “It felt like there was sand on my arms but there was no sand.”

Just goose bumps.

The event was organized by Flyers Restaurant and Brewery with help from the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Jason Tritt, one of the owners of Flyers, grew up in Oak Harbor. He said participation in the run and plunge exceeded his expectations.

“There wasn’t an event like this in town,” Tritt said. “A lot of the towns around us do a polar bear plunge resolution run. The base offers one; it’s not open to the public. So a lot of people travel out of town for it. So, we thought it would be fun to organize an event here locally.”

“We thought the park was a perfect location with the lagoon,” Tritt said. “It’s a safe environment for kids and family and everybody.”

A large number of Oak Harbor Fire Department members were on hand to show community support and be on site if help was needed.

The event appeared to go off without a hitch, however. Tents were provided so participants could change clothes quickly and start to warm up.

Kimberly Rath Gabler and her daughter Ambyrlie, 9, ran into the water with their German shepherd, Jade.

While the freezing water stopped Ambyrlie in her tracks, her mom and Jade ventured deeper.

“We do quite a bit of running,” Rath Gabler said of Jade. “We decided to do the run today and what better way to cool off than to freeze yourself.”

That’s sort of how Dudley saw it.

Standing chest deep in water, he dove forward, surfaced then splashed water at his 18-year-old son, DeVere. He playfully wrestled a bit with DeVere with son Govan, 16, nearby trying to get out of the way.

The whole Dudley family participated in the run, including his wife, Christine, and their daughter Gianna, 13.

“He’s always wanting to do these types of things,” Gianna said. “He always wants to do stuff with the community.”

Dudley said he and his family have participated in the polar bear plunge at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in past years. This one in the lagoon is special because it was in the heart of the town he serves.

“We’re already looking forward to next year,” he said.

 

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