CALAIS, Maine — The national economy may be sinking, but not the hardy Mainers who dove into the icy Atlantic last week to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.
“I think the numbers were slightly down over years previous, but that most likely is a reflection upon the economy,” Washington County Community College President Bill Cassidy said Tuesday. “But by the same token we did wonderfully well.”
The 70 dippers raised more than $10,000. The event was held at the Pleasant Point Reservation on Route 190.
Last year, 130 dippers took the plunge and raised more than $12,000.
The Ronald McDonald facility provides free support and shelter to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at hospitals in Bangor, and is used by people from Washington County.
At noon Friday, the dippers, clad in everything from bathing suits to long pants, hit the beach running in the cold, as part of the ninth annual Polar Bear Dip sponsored by the college’s student senate.
Each year the student senate chooses a theme and this year’s was “Polarstock,” a takeoff on the 1969 concert and festival near Woodstock, N.Y.
Although the air temperatures hovered around 43 degrees, those who were there said the wind made it feel like 20 below.
Cassidy did not dip, but staff and students did.
“Like a good athlete at the top of their game, I am now a coach,” Cassidy said with a smile.
The president had high praise for the Pleasant Point tribal government and its public safety and ambulance departments. Each year, public safety prepares the beach for the runners, and the Sipayik Ambulance is on-site in the event of an emergency.
In addition to the dip event, the college’s culinary arts students hold their annual taste test under a tent.
Again this year, the students presented their culinary creations for the public to sample and vote on. The winner, Josh Long of Cornville, now will take his creation to the statewide competition at the Blaine House in Augusta on March 25.
Other student chefs were Ashley Moore, Donielle Fields and Jayme Bailey. An estimated 100 people tasted and voted.
Supported by the Maine Dairy Council, students prepare their own entree containing a dairy product and then put together a marketing plan to show how the entree would sell. There was everything from homemade ice cream to a croissant with lobster sauce, Cassidy said.
The president also sampled the food. “I wasn’t quite sure when I cast my ballot [the first time] so I went back for a second taste,” he joked.
Cassidy said he was proud of the students. “This particular activity is purely student-run,” he said. “And every result and resounding success every year is a direct indication of the kind of young students we have. They are morally, ethically good people who want to give something back to the community.”