Nearly 130 hardy Winnipeggers lined up in trunks, T-shirts, and some dressed it up with funny Halloween masks and capes to take the 2014 Polar Plunge Saturday.
Law enforcement agencies across North America organize the annual event to raise money for the Special Olympics but Winnipeg has to be one of the coldest provincial capitals in Canada to host it.
Matt Kilgor, an employee who turned out in black trunks and tee with a neon yellow cape, along with half a dozen of his co-workers, eyed the vat of freezing water outside the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre on Robinson Street on his way to the vat. "They said to remember to breathe," he confided, his arm around a petite blonde in line with him, also dressed in black with a yellow cape.
The event primarily drew workers from law enforcement and service and supply shops, like Urban Tactical where Kilgor worked.
Minutes later, he climbed a wooden ladder, stood for a second on the platform and took the plunge.
The event saw 129 people line up for the 1 p.m. kick-off at the friendship centre. Cars packed a three-square-block area and metal bleachers for spectators gave supporters a perch to watch the spectacle in the parking lot off Robinson Street.
The centre was packed with related raffles and crowds, including relatives and friends. Polar plungers were lined up at an open door that faced the vat.
Kilgor waited about 45 minutes for the 10-second plunge.
When he emerged from the freezing water, he was shaking with cold and gasping for breath, physically unable to utter a single word.
"It was very cold," Kilgor said when he could talk again, after taking a breather in a green khaki army tent that served as après-plunge warming shack.
Last year, 121 Manitobans took the plunge at the event, raising $36,000 for the Special Olympics.
This is the second year for the event in Winnipeg, sponsored this year by ATCO Sustainable Communities and Chief Peguis Construction Ltd. CP Construction general manager Glen Cochrane watched some of the plunges and said he admired the grit it took to jump into cold water at subzero temperatures.
"You have to have a true heart for the cause to do something like this," he said. "We’re just honoured to support a cause such as this."
Best part? A bright sun.