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Ice day for a swim: Polar Plunge held in Corvallis
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Ice day for a swim: Polar Plunge held in Corvallis


There were costumes of all types and people of all ages in the crowd Saturday morning for the 11th Annual Polar Plunge but MC Skip Volkmann had just one question for them: What were you thinking?

Approximately 50 teams lined the bank of the Willamette River in Corvallis on Saturday to freeze for a good cause. The event has raised more than $500,000 in its 11 years for the Special Olympics and early estimates pegged this year's donations at around $60,000. 

February is usually a safe bet for a chilly swim but in Oregon it also means rain and Saturday saw the participants under umbrellas before going into the river. But for some, the extra water helped. 

"It's cold and wet here waiting to go in and when we go into the river over there it will be cold and wet. What's the difference?" said Denise Barron who sported a Maleficent costume for her second year taking part in the event for Linn County Special Olympics. 

It was Peter Desmarteau's first time at the plunge and his first time in a dress. Donning an Elsa costume from the movie "Frozen," the Salem firefighter was joined by Olaf and Anna as well in an attempt to raise $5,000 for the cause. 

Corvallis Police Department Lt. Joel Goodwin also garnered donations for his outfit of choice. He braved the 40-degree water twice on Saturday. Once with his team and then again after a bystander promised $500 for the organization if Goodwin would take another dip--this time in a dress. 

"It's for a good cause," Goodwin said. 

It's what sparked professional photographer Bryan Bernart, who works in Los Angeles and the mid-valley, to donate his time as well. Donning two wetsuits, he stationed himself in the river to take photos of the groups as they ran down the boat ramp into the water. 

"It's important to donate my time in service of worthy causes," he said. 

He and other spectators got to watch trolls, super heroes, "Frozen" characters and other costumes as teams From as far away as Salem and Newport took turns rushing into the river for about 30 minutes. 

The event wrapped up with a costume contest. First place went to the "Frozen" team, second place went to Bit by Bit Hose Therapy, the Benco team won third place and the Starbucks Green beans earned an honorable mention.