Frost tinged the grass and the sun peeked slightly through the evergreens as about 80 people leapt into Clear Lake for the annual McMaster Polar Plunge.
Friends and family members gathered together a little before noon to revel in the new year and remember former Bald Hills Fire Commissioner Roger McMaster, an avid plunging participant and devoted community member, before the event. Members from Bald Hills Fire Protection District 17 were in attendance.
McMaster passed away a year ago on Christmas Day following a year-long battle with cancer. He was 62.
Diana McMaster was one of three Bald Hills Fire District commissioners that participated in the dip. She wore a white t-shirt with Roger’s name printed on it — a heart outlined the “o” in his name. She took over her husband’s post after he passed.
Bald Hills Fire commissioner Jerry Bickett said naming the event after Roger McMaster means so much to him. He said he was neighbors with Diana and Roger McMaster for years and that this is an appropriate way to keep his legacy going. They were practically family.
“If it’s for Roger, I’ll do it,” Bickett said, looking out into the water. “When Roger used to be here, he was very stringent on the time.”
Community members around Clearwood have participated in the event for over a quarter decade and this was Andrew Eubanks’ first year participating in the plunge.
“I don’t always make it out of bed on time,” said Eubanks, president of the Clearwood Community Association.
Annual events such as these really take the community back to its roots when it was a recreation and campground, Eubanks said. Plus, the community doesn’t always get a chance to utilize the lake during the winter months.
“It’s just good, clean fun,” Eubanks said.
As the minutes sprang nearer to noon, Deputy Fire Chief Steven Slater gathered dippers young and old around the shore of Longmire Beach and on its dock. This was Slater’s third year as announcer for the event and he follows in the footsteps of Roger McMaster, who he said announced the event for a number of years.
In the final minutes, Slater took inventory of which dipper had been doing it for the longest, who was plunging for the first time, who was the youngest dipper and who was the oldest.
Slater started the countdown from 30 seconds, and as his clock struck noon dozens of people leapt, ran, dunked and dipped into the water.
39-year-old Daniel Johnson, a Bald Hills resident, wore a Rafiki onesie as he leapt from the Longmire dock into the frigid January water with his 15-year-old son Lawrence.
Johnson said this is his second year polar plunging, his first was at the Lacey polar plunge. He said he’s looking forward to making this a family tradition — his wife and two other children watched as Daniel and Lawrence Johnson dived.
In the minutes after the plunge, Daniel Johnson put a towel over his head and began shivering. The water was cold.
“Oh yeah, like ‘dear Lord, save me,’” Daniel Johnson said.
Bald Hills Fire Lieutenant William Hardesty said he opted out because he grew up in New York and there wasn’t any reason to get that cold again.
“The way I look at it, they can’t make any worse decisions this year,” Hardesty said, with jest.
As the plunge wrapped up and people began taking off, 61-year-old Manuel Layseca and his family conducted their own polar plunge. They were unfortunately five minutes late to the plunge.
“It’s (all) about your mindset,” Layseca said. Him, his wife Irma, and their two friends participated in their plunge. Sara, his daughter, wasn’t prepared and opted out.
Layseca said he hopes more people come out to the polar plunge in the following years because it produces a positive mindset that people should bring into the new year.
“That’s a good idea. I should do it next year,” Sara said.