Around the Island

Don’t chicken out on the library’s 10th annual Turkey Plunge

Ready, set, plunge! Into ice cold water during The Friends of the Shelter Island Library’s 10th annual Turkey Plunge on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. at Crescent Beach. 

For those who have yet to plunge, the Turkey Plunge is a brief, but frigid dip into the waters of the bay and a Thanksgiving weekend tradition on the Island. Costumes are highly encouraged while plunging and money raised from the entry fees and fundraising efforts benefit library programming all year long.

It’s a tradition that began back in 2009 when Peter and Gail Vielbig’s daughter and grandchildren were visiting for Thanksgiving. 

LESLIE DEL COL PHOTO Peter Vielbig’s grandchildren, Charlotte, Lucy and Peter Del Col at the plunge in 2010.

“My granddaughter, Charlotte — who is now 18 — said we all had to jump into Dering Harbor because her friends were in Nantucket jumping into the water for the Nantucket Library,” Mr. Vielbig told the Reporter in 2017. “Our family all ran into the water here and Gail, Charlotte’s grammy, suggested she take the idea to the library.”

Mr. Vielbig said that Charlotte, who was 10 at the time, did just that. She got her library card and slipped a note into the suggestion box that read, “Why don’t we have a turkey plunge?” That first Turkey Plunge was a success and raised around $12,000 for the library, he said. 

Though Gail Vielbig, who was active with the Friends of the Library, passed away in 2014 (that year’s plunge was dedicated to her), the Turkey Plunge hasn’t frozen yet, raising around $15,000 a year for library programming.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO The Fabulous Five in 2018, who stayed just seconds short of 20 minutes to take the honor of being the last ones out. From left, Amelia Heilbronn, Stella Kekalos, Eveltn Robert, Oliver Marie and Jasper Yang.

“The money the Friends of the Library raises goes to different things the library needs. We funded the children’s section moving downstairs, for example. We also give money every year for extra books to be bought and also some computer programs, such as,” said plunge organizer Andrew Ward, who plunges every year.

According to library directory Terry Lucas, who said she’s “trying to work up the courage to plunge,” the funding also supports the library’s craft programs.

At this year’s plunge, prizes will be awarded for best costume (male and female), most money raised by an individual, and most money raised by a team. In past years there was a prize for staying in the water the longest, but that was done away with when someone stayed in so long he got hypothermia and EMS volunteers had to help him out. Other prizes will be raffled off so participants should hold onto their registrations which serve as a raffle ticket.

2018’s best costume winners from left to right Heather Brownlie, Daniel Nachumi and Lachlan McCall.

The Friends of the Shelter Island Library is a separate 501c3 corporation which was formed years ago to support the library and provide funds for things which lie outside the library’s annual budget. 

Plunge details:

Plungers may immerge themselves to their ankles, knees or go completely under water. Registration begins at 10 a.m. The entry fee is $25 in advance, $30 at the beach on plunge day and T-shirts and buttons are available for plungers. Costume judging begins at 10:15 a.m. The plunge is held rain, snow or sun and to entice the plungers, complimentary hot cider and donuts will be served. Also available will be cups of chili created by a local chef. Participants can register at the library or online at Return pledges and checks/cash to the library by Friday, November 24. Sponsors can pledge directly to the participant or online.

Turkey (or polar) plunge fun facts:

-Polar Bear Swims have been practiced for well over 100 years in different countries. 

-The first recorded Polar Bear Swim took place in Boston 1904. 

-In Canada plunging into icy water for a swim is a New Year’s Day tradition. Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim Club has been active since 1920 and has 1,000 to 2,000 registered participants every New Year’s Day.

-The Netherlands appear to have outdone North American plunges, as about 10,000 people have been diving into the icy cold sea water at Scheveningen, The Netherlands’ main beach resort town, every year since 1960. 

-It is estimated that all over the Netherlands, 30,000 people take part in what they call “Nieuwjaarsduik” (New Year’s dive) each year.

-New Year’s Day is thought to be the best day for this kind of swim because it’s believed that after you’ve done that, no challenge the New Year could bring could possible faze you. 

-Plungapalooza, a Special Olympic fundraiser, is the largest polar bear plunge in the United States, held annually at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland. The largest Plungapalooza to date took place in 2008, with an estimated 12,000 people plunging.