1st Day Plunge Tuesday at East Ferry
The second annual Jamestown 1st Day Plunge – still known to many as the Penguin Plunge – will take place at the town beach at East Ferry on New Year’s Day. This year’s event will feature the added attraction of a stand-up paddleboard race to start off the day.
Last year’s plunge was planned on short notice when Special Olympics Rhode Island decided to relocate the event to Roger Wheeler Beach in Narragansett. It had previously been held at Mackerel Cove for 30 consecutive years.
Local organizers, led by Bob Bailey, decided that Jamestown should continue to hold a New Year’s Day plunge, but decided to move it to East Ferry in the hope that it would benefit local businesses in the village.
Approximately 300 people plunged into the cold water in Jamestown on New Year’s Day 2012. There were also about 750 spectators on hand to view the proceedings. The event raised money to benefit the Joshua Barber memorial fund and the Rocket ’hogs.
Each prospective plunger is asked to get pledge commitments from sponsors. The money raised through pledges this year will be donated to Bridges Inc., a local facility for developmentally disabled adults, and the Jamestown Education Foundation.
“The Jamestown Education Foundation is incredibly grateful for the generous support of individual donors and collective efforts like the Jamestown 1st Day Plunge,” said Sally Schott, president of the organization. “These bighearted contributions enable JEF to fund after-school programs and summer camps that expand the minds of Jamestown’s kids and lead them in a quest for life-long learning.”
The stand-up paddleboard race is a new feature this year. It will begin at 11:30 a.m. People can bring their own paddleboards, and Jamestown Outdoors will provide the boards free of charge to anyone without one.
“We’re not sure how many folks will turn out for that, but it seems to be a growing trend around the island the last couple of years,” Bailey said. “Jamestown Outdoors is willing to bring down a bunch of their paddleboards for people who are brave enough to do it.”
The day’s main event, the plunge itself, begins at noon. To register, both a pledge and waiver form must be filled out. (They are available at the recreation enter, Conanicut Marine, the Narragansett Café, and online at Jamestown 1stDayPlunge.com.) Many forms have already been picked up, and more people are expected to enter. Registration is open until 11 a.m. on Jan. 1.
“We encourage people to have friends and family pledge donations for the plunger,” Bailey said.
There is no age restriction for entry into the Jamestown 1st Day Plunge, but children under 18 are required to have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.
Participants in the stand-up paddleboard race and not required to get pledge donations. The race is being considered an entertaining prelude to the big event.
According to Bailey, there will also be fire pits spread around the green so plungers and onlookers can stay warm. Pete the Penguin will be on hand to entertain children, and Will Wilson will do some ice carving as well. The Joedega food truck will be on-site serving coffee and hot chocolate, and Jim Shorts from the “Jim Shorts on Sports” radio show on WHJY will be the emcee.
“We hope, weather dependent, to have the Jamestown Community Band play,” Bailey said. “They did last year but it was very warm.”
Bailey said that there are new challenges this year as a result of the damage that Hurricanes Irene and Sandy did to the seawall at East Ferry. The repair work that is currently ongoing has imposed some barriers that are going to have to be worked around. Bailey said that Town Engineer Mike Gray and police will help coordinate whatever efforts are necessary to make it happen.
Two local restaurants will feature live music following the plunge. Chopmist Charlie’s will present the Celtic band Garda, and Sarah & the Tall Boys will appear at the Narragansett Café.
“The plunge is the biggest day of the year for us at the ’Ganny,” said owner John Recca. When Bailey spearheaded the effort to move the event from Mackerel Cove to East Ferry, Recca jumped on board as a sponsor. He is continuing to do the same this year. A preregistration party was held at the restaurant Dec. 23. Official plunge merchandise – T-shirts, hats, towels, pins and stickers – are currently on sale at the café.
“One-hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to the charities,” said Recca. “This is a great local event, great for the town and great for the charities.”
The biggest surprise of last year’s plunge was the sight of Bailey starting off the event by water skiing off the beach dressed in a tuxedo. It remains to be seen whether he will repeat his performance this year.
“We’re going to try,” Bailey said. “I’ve got a 20-degree, 20-knot rule. If it’s above 20 degrees and below 20 knots, I’m prepared to do it.”