Polar Plunge chills participants to the bone, Chili Cook-Off warms them up

Photo by Eric Harrold/Fall River County Herald-Star

Dustin Curl gets airborne during the 2021 Polar Plunge to raise money for the Edgemont Volunteer Fire Department

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By Eric Harrold

Staff Writer

EDGEMONT – Anybody who knows Edgemont’s Dustin Aldrich is likely well aware that the guy has a crazy streak about him. Aldrich says it all started on a whim about 14 years ago when a couple of buddies up in Custer agreed with him that it ‘sounded like a good idea at the time’ to cut a hole in the ice and jump into water cold enough to numb one’s body parts – all for no particular reason, other than one last chance at hypothermia before winter transitioned to spring.

After transferring the idea across the county line, the notion added the proposal that it could be a way to raise funds for the Edgemont Volunteer Fire Department. Are there really that many crazy people in Edgemont? Wait, don’t answer that! As it turns out, there are indeed a few enthusiastic souls willing to take the plunge for a good cause. Fifteen of them to be exact in this year’s version of what many would describe as a competition among the insane.

In the minutes prior to the voluntarily-imposed suffering, the wind picked up, causing the ice-fishing houses to shift in location and the sun, unlike last year, was not to be seen.

This year marked the second for Edgemont Mayor Carla Schepler as a participant. Schepler recalled her first attempt a year ago and described it as “stimulating”. This year was much colder she insisted, an opinion shared by most plungers, but not Dustin Curl, who suavely emerged from the water’s dark depths and declared it just another dip. 

No sooner had the last plunge been taken, than the sun came out and delivered its warming rays on shivering bodies headed in a hurry for the warmth of idling vehicles. Later in the evening, as the day’s last shadow’s were cast, enthusiasts shifted to the Victory Steakhouse for the second round of festivities in the chili cook-off.

While it would almost seem antithetical to a bunch of people that could be persuaded to jump into a hole in an ice-covered pond, plungers and onlookers alike took immense delight in sampling the wonderful variety of chilies that were concocted for the competition.

Grant Hamaker, Dustin Curtis, and Miles Van Uden took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place respectively in the cook-off. Hamaker entered a white chicken chili that would tantalize your taste buds, with its unique blend of spices, but honestly all entries were delightful to sample.

Finally, replete with chili-warmed bellies and armed with their preferred adult beverage, the Baggo tournament participants began tossing bags across the room in the last fund-raising event of the day. It was hard to tell whether some of them just don’t do this sort of thing all that often or whether the beverages were getting the better of them. When the dust settled late into the night, Dustin Curl and Seth Stevens took first place with second going to Ben Haskvitz and Joel Heidebrink. Both teams donated their winnings back to the fire department.

Dustin Aldrich extends his appreciation to those who donated or contributed in any measurable way to the day’s events, which yielded $1,360 in donations to the Edgemont Volunteer Fire Department. The community and Aldrich extend a special thanks to Riley Stevens and Isaac Friesen of the Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department who were on scene for the polar plunge equipped with their cold water rescue gear.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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