The holiday season is filled with many longstanding traditions. The annual Polar Plunge at Lake Sammamish State Park is one event that folks in and around Sammamish look forward to on New Year’s Day. But as in the case of many other events, COVID-19 made this year’s “plunge” into 2021 look a little different.
Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park (FLSSP), a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and enhancing the park, hosts the annual Polar Plunge to gather the community and to raise money for the park’s upkeep. Typically, residents of Sammamish, Issaquah, and neighboring cities meet at the park on the morning of January 1. After the plunge, participants warm up by grabbing a cup of clam chowder and socializing with others in the community. Although plunging is not required for registration, people are encouraged to start their year by jumping into the chilly lake.
This year, however, the event was held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns, and devoid of the usual fanfare.
Jennifer Adut, the Executive Director of FLSSP, explained that people were encouraged to send in photos of themselves or their families doing the plunge with COVID-19 precautions in mind. Whether it be jumping off their dock into the lake, or simply pouring a bucket of water over themselves, all residents were encouraged to participate virtually and send a photo of themselves doing it.
In addition to sending in photos, the first 200 people to register and donate $10 were sent a coupon for a free chowder at Ivar’s, a sticker, and a Polar Plunge neck gaiter. Those who did not pay the registration fee were still welcomed to participate by sending in their polar plunge photos or videos.
Submitted content is being compiled into a slideshow for viewing on the FLSSP website in the upcoming weeks.
While this year’s event lacked ceremony, Lake Sammamish State Park was open to the public for those who wished to brave the cold at the usual location. At a time, small groups of five took the plunge in accordance with the safety protocols. Lifeguards, emergency vehicles and the setup, however, were not available for the event.
North Bend resident Bruce Noble participated in his first Polar Plunge at Lake Sammamish last year. He recalls having loved the experience. While he would have enjoyed doing it again this year, he appreciates FLSSP’s improvisation to enable the event during the pandemic.
“I am glad they did not hold the Plunge in the usual manner,” said Noble. “It is the type of event that I think could encourage some coronavirus social distancing lapses.”
Noble did not participate in the virtual plunge this year because it would not offer the same thrill of jumping in the cold lake. He did, however, pay the early registration fee in order to receive the window sticker and support FLSSP.
Both Adut and Noble hope that the Lake Sammamish Polar Plunge returns next year in its normal, in-person format to continue this exciting tradition.