Hanging Rock State Park and the Stokes County Arts Council will again play host to the Hanging Rock Polar Plunge on Jan. 1, giving participants a chance to kick off the new year by racing into the frigid Hanging Rock Lake in crazy costumes while helping to raise money for arts program at the park later in the year.
“It really is a great way to kick off the new year,” said Stokes County Arts Council Director Eddy McGee, who plans on taking the plunge himself for a second year in a row. “We did not expect it to be the giant success that it became last year. We had about 75 participants and an overwhelming number of spectators. Our goal for this year is to get 100 people in the water.
“Word has gotten out of how big of a party it was,” he added. “It almost felt like Mardis Gras with the costumes.”
McGee said the festivities will kick off at 1:30 p.m. at the Hanging Rock Bathhouse.
“We will have Tory Mabe DJing, and we are encouraging folks to come in costumes again,” said McGee. “We are planning on having a costume parade this year at around 2:30 p.m. leading up to the plunge at 3 p.m. We pushed the plunge back by an hour this year in hopes that it might get a little bit warmer with that extra hour.”
McGee said there will be plenty of chicken stew, chili, hot dogs, and hot chocolate for both the plungers and spectators, as well as a bonfire on the beach to help keep participants warm.
He noted that prizes will be given for the top three costumes.
“We have some pottery and local art work for second and third place,” he said. “For first place we are trying to get together something larger with a gift basket.”
Plungers can pre-register for the event for $25 at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2467032. Day-of registration will cost $35. Registration is limited to participants 14 years-old or older, and participants aged 14 to 17 have to have signed permission from a parent or legal guardian.
McGee said all participants would receive a bath towel with the Hanging Rock Polar Plunge logo.
Funds raised through the event will be used to help finance arts programming at the park during its peak season in the spring through fall.
“We have done some small scale stuff up here, but we wanted to create a fund that can be used to ensure ongoing events at the park,” he said. “We want to give folks that are up here an opportunity to see more arts events. We want to get a schedule together where people can plan for events. We want to try to have something up here about twice a month with more music and theater.”
Park Superintendent Robin Riddlebarger said the park would also be hosting a First Day guided hike to Hanging Rock on New Years Day. She said those wishing to go on the hike should meet at the Hanging Rock trail head at 10 a.m.
Riddlebarger said both events were a good way to start out the year by getting outside, but noted the Polar Plunge was also a great way to see friends and neighbors.
“Last year it was great to see so many local people who were not your typical park visitor,” she said. “We had a lot of older people and park neighbors coming up to see people jumping in the water. I was amazed at the costumes last year. You had people dressed in drag, as a giant chicken and all kinds of crazy stuff.”
McGee said the Stokes County EMS would be on hand and noted the park was providing life guards for the event.
“We are going to have caution tape set up around the lake to keep the spectators further away from the lake this year,” he said. “It will give EMS a better view of the lake and everyone going in.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.