Ascension Parish and surrounding areas warmly participated in the Special Olympics Louisiana annual Polar Plunge, held at Cabela's in Gonzales on February 18.
"Welcome to the 2017 not-quite-Polar-Plunge," Chief Meteorologist Jay Grymes of WAFB said to kick off the event. Chief Deputy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office (APSO) Bobby Webre spoke in the same vein.
"I thank God I'm from Southern Louisiana and not Fargo, North Dakota," Webre said to the crowd. "Because they're doing Polar Plunge out there, too."
Although APSO sponsors the event, they were not the only law enforcement agency to participate. The Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, St. James Sheriff's Office, and others got wet. Lt. Col. Ward Webb with APSO even dressed up like Captain America.
The event, also known as "Freezin' for a Reason," encourages participants to dress up in costume. After the plunge, participants enjoy a costume contest, live music, food, and refreshments. A raffle and a silent auction also take place.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux was in attendance with councilmen Neal Bourque and David Guitreau. Their message, "Jump safe."
"This is what it's all about," Arceneaux said. "It warms your heart to see the different teams who come out here and want to jump in that water. I tell them 'no' every year, but thank God we have people who want to do things like this."
Many local groups attended either for fun or to support loved ones who participate in the Special Olympics. Athlete Lydia Roberts participated with her group who all dressed as mermaids. They're known as the "Sea of Acceptance."
"She's a mermaid. That's her dream," Paulette Roberts, Lydia's mother, said.
Special Olympics Athlete Amy Scanlon also participated, enthusiastically.
"She talks about it all year," Amy's mother, Cindy Scanlon, said.
Their group, "Dunk and Geaux Nuts," paid homage to sponsor Dunkin' Donuts with their costumes. They decorated inner tubes like frosted doughnuts. "Do you know how hard it is to find inner tubes this time of year?" Rebecca Pruitt asked.
Some participants have been involved with the Special Olympics and the Polar Plunge for many years. Team K'Von is one of them. K'Von Albert has been an athlete for 11 years. His mother, Kindera Hilliard, said he competes in Bowling, Swimming, and Track and Field. He does this all without legs.
"He's been to two national games with the Special Olympics," Hilliard, from Prairieville, said.
Other jumpers, like Josie Carroll, and her mother, Brandy, from Maurepas were there for the first time.
Moreover, The Galvez-Lake Volunteer Fire Department from Prairieville was in attendance. They were dressed as jesters. It sounds like they're challenging other fire departments to participate in the future.
"Unless this year changes, we are the only fire department that actually jumps in this," Assistant Fire Chief Karen James said.
Among others who donated were the East Ascension Swim Team, the Gonzales Rotary, the Knights of Columbus, Eagle 98.1, and the St. Amant Student Council.
The sky was overcast, but those choosing not to get wet were able to stay dry, in most cases. And there were reportedly no crocodile bites.
Follow Greg on Twitter: @ascensioneditor