There were some strange characters wandering around the parking lot of the Sunset Beach motel Saturday morning.
In bright sunlight with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, there were more than 300 people, some half-dressed and others looking like they had been left over from Halloween parties a month earlier. There was also a fair share of people just drawn to the spectacle.
One guy was bare to the waist with writing on his chest proclaiming himself to be Vladimir Putin. “I forgot my horse,” he said. On closer look it was Joe Hine, normally a respectable citizen of our Island.
An Indian chief in full headdress wandered past with a sign identifying him as “Chief Read-a-Book.” Or Chris Carey hiding out in buckskin gear and war paint.
One woman had turned herself into a gravy boat, in honor of Thanksgiving, it was assumed. But wait, it actually was Ann Biddlecom, who like others was just killing time before throwing herself into the 45-degree temperatures of Peconic Bay.
Her plan? “Go in gradually and then come out rapidly,” said Ms. Biddlecom, no fool, it could be argued
The Cat in the Hat turned out to be Library Director Denise DiPaolo. “I keep tripping over my tail,” she said, but didn’t seem to mind all that much.
In the background was the doomy theme from “Jaws,” inspiring, it was supposed, the 100 other people, plus Ms. DiPaolo, who were set to run screaming bloody murder into the bay.
Islander Cromwell Coulson said he was “an aspirational Viking,” and wasn’t worried about the cold water, recalling pond hockey games from his youth, falling in “and then the long bike ride home.”
And Police Chief Jim Read, smiling and present at the scene, didn’t do a thing to stop them. On the contrary, he was cheering them on, and making decisions on who was wearing the best ( a relative term) costume.
“I didn’t take this in library school,” Ms. DiPaolo said, looking around at other people in the parking lot. “This was an elective I missed.”
“This” was the 4th annual Turkey Plunge, a fundraiser hosted by the Friends of the Shelter Island Public Library. More than $15,000 was raised through registration fees and sales of plunge items, such as shirts and caps. Island businesses contributed to a raffle and prizes for best costume. (See list below for those who participated.)
At 11 o’clock, with cheers, shrieks, howls and screams, the 101 dashed into the bay. They were all ages, from eight to 80. One little boy, on his way out, was so exhilarated he didn’t notice his bathing suit was congregating around his knees. His father, right behind him, and just as full of joy, pulled up his son’s suit, swept him up in his arms and ran farther up the beach.
Dennis Fabiszak, director of the East Hampton Library was beaming after his cold dip. “Very cool, he said, an apt response on at least two levels.
But The Cat in the Hat, summed it up. “A great way to end a holiday weekend with friends and family, “ Ms. DiPaolo said.
Best costume, Man: Chris Carey: “Chief Read-a-Book,” won a certificate for a gift basket from Schmidts.
Best costume, Woman: “Ann Biddlecom, “Gravy Boat,” won a gift basket from Table of Content.
Tied for best kids’ costumes: Mateo Badger, “Cowboy’s Steed” and Gallo Patel, “Polluted Jelly Fish.” Mateo won a $25 gift certificate to Jack’s Marine, and Patel won $25 gift certifcate to the Islander.
Raffle winners were:
Ken Lewis — Corner Bar Gift certificate
Dr. Beth Huttman — One week CSA share
Susannah Cahill — gift certificate from Shelter Island Historical Society
Edward McNally — Shelter Island Yoga and Fitness one-year membership
Eric Clark — Sag Harbor Cinema one-year membership for two
Joe Hine — truckload of firewood from Peter Vielbig
Team Frozen Butterballs —Blue Canoe gift certificate and Channing Daughters gift bag
Gregory Senken — Anna’s gift certificate
John Kenny — Hampton Gym gift certificate
Elizabeth McCarthy — 18 Bay gift certificate
Cromwell Coulson — One-year subscription Shelter Island Reporter
Sam Seymour —gift from Bliss’ Department Store
Lucy del Col – gift certificate from Shelter Island Florist
John Mitchell —gift certificate from Happy Feet in Sag Harbor
Robert Moderelli — Kathleen Lynch massage
Alfie Brigham —gift certificate from First and South in Greenport
Marshall Numark — bar tending for a party by Jimmi Rando and Steven Jauffrineau