People of the plunge


Asher Davidson

Plungers jump into lake Chetola at the Polar Plunge Saturday January 28, 2023.

Asher Davidson, Reporter

Hundreds of onlookers greeted the sunny 39 degree Saturday morning at Chetola Resort as they waited on the banks of the Chetola Lake. The air was filled with laughter, merry conversations and ice themed music, such as “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice playing loudly over the speakers. 

The guests are waiting for the 25th Polar Bear Plunge to get underway as the 130 plungers that signed up were in a safety meeting about what to expect from the icy waters that awaited them. 

The plungers came out in groups of 15 people to thunderous cheering from the crowd and the light hearted banter of eight time MC John Carter, an anchor at WBTV News in Charlotte and an App State alum, graduating in 1979.

“It’s Blowing Rock. How could you not want to come up here,” Carter said. “It is just the best place on Earth. I just love it here.”

Carter started every plunger’s experience with asking their names and asking why they wanted to jump into the lake. This question was often met with a slew of responses about fulfilling birthday wishes to jumpers declaring they just thought plunging would be fun.

Then, before they plunged Carter would make a quip about the icy death that awaited them, or say a throwaway line about how they were crazy for jumping in. After the jumpers re-emerged from the lake Carter laughed as he tried to ask them what it was like. All he normally got was one word.


Joan Hearn, “a staple of the High Country’s volunteer scene,” according to an article published by the Watagua Democrat, was also in attendance and made her 30th plunge this year. Normally she would have made it with her husband Richard Hearn but since his passing a few years ago she’s made it alone. Before Joan Hearn plunged she recalled all the good times the couple had plunging together. She said participating in the Polar Plunge was her idea and sometimes after her and Richard Hearn “wouldn’t speak to one another.” 

Joan Hearn ended her stories about her and Richard Hearn’s plunges with the most wholesome line from the event. 

“I picked a wonderful man,” Hearn said. 

Then she plunged into the freezing water. 

With the plunges also came hilarious costumes among jumping teams. One of the most notable was a jumper named Macho Man. Macho Man spoke in an exaggerated manly tone as he encouraged the crowd to help the charities present reach their donation goals. 

Macho Man was in the first group to take the plunge and as he hit the water the curly haired wig he wore flew off his head and floated in the water until he re-emerged. About 20 minutes later he rushed the dock and jumped in a second time, but not before reminding everyone to go pick up a coffee or beanie to help the charities. 

The best costume at the plunge received the golden plunger, the highest honor awarded at the event, for their creativity and style. This year’s winners were The Speckled Trout Outfitters. Joel Brown, one of the plungers, was painted head to toe like a trout and was pulled into the lake by a wrangler who had him on the hook of a fly fishing pole.  

The painter of the speckled trout plunger was Jacob Daniels from the Common Goods Company.

“I didn’t expect to jump in the water today,” Daniels said. “When he asked me to jump in that was more of a challenge than anything so I couldn’t back down from a good challenge.”

This was Daniels’ first time coming to the Polar Plunge and he said it was very entertaining and fun to support the community in this way. 

“We are part of the community and we love it. This is where we call home,” Daniels said.

The Polar Plunge is a staple of Blowing Rock’s Winterfest. This year Blowing Rock is celebrating the Winterfest’s 25th anniversary and the festival goes until Sunday. 

The event is hosted by The Blowing Rock attraction, Chetola Resort, and all the profits from the event go to help the Hunger and Health Coalition and the High Country Caregivers.