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Tony and Melissa Newcomb of Eastport had three special reasons for being among the hundreds of spectators attending Friday’s 11th annual Polar Dip in the chilly waters of Passamaquoddy Bay.
The couple is expecting triplet boys within the next four to six weeks, and despite being put on bed rest, Melissa said it was important to come to the dip, although she stayed in a wheelchair and never entered the water.
“The triplets are not due until May, but we expect them in the next few weeks,” she said. “We fully anticipate spending lots of time at the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor over the next few months,” she said.
Over the past 10 years, the dip has raised $160,000 to support the Ronald McDonald House. Tessa Ftorek, one of the founders of the dip, said attendance has grown each year from 13 or so at the original event held at Gleason’s Bay in Perry, to the hundreds who attended Friday.
One hundred twenty participants actually went into the water, raising more than $12,000 for the charity.
Despite stiff winds and mountains of snow, the event was pretty much a party. Participants were walking around in bathrobes and flip-flops, wearing wigs and odd hats. Danny Lola of Indian Township came dressed as Super Grover. Jeff Stanhope of Perry wore a cheesehead (he proudly said he was actually a New England Patriots fan and only wore the cheese to get attention) and “Star Wars” underwear.
“I raised $1,135 from truckers,” he said. Stanhope drives for A.D. Pottle Trucking. “This was actually on a dare. My niece has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House several times and this was how I could give back.”
Barbara Barrett, 64, of Eastport said she had dipped every year except one because that year she was down with the flu. “It’s a wonderful shock to the system,” she said.
Heather Stanhope of Perry was dipping for the first time. Her daughter Jocelyn Stanhope, 17, has dipped for the past three years, and the pair decided to make it a mother-and-daughter event this year before Jocelyn leaves for the University of Maine in Orono next fall.
“It is such a great cause,” Ftorek said. “Ronald McDonald House has served so many people in our area. I am so absolutely proud of this event.”
After Ftorek retired from Washington County Community College, WCCC took on sponsorship of the dip. “But you’ll never be able to keep me away,” she admitted moments before plunging into the ocean.
Dippers came from far and wide — 14 participants arrived in a school bus from Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle. Even the school’s dean Bill Egeler dipped along with the students. “It was minus 10 when I left for work this morning,” he said, dripping onto the snow.
“So this I’ll consider balmy,” said Egeler, referring to the 26-degree temperature at Pleasant Point.
Before the actual dip, participants warmed themselves by a bonfire or visited a heated tent to shelter themselves from the biting wind.
Inside the tent, culinary students from WCCC offered samples of specially created desserts. The offerings were tantalizing — key lime cheesecake, spiced chocolate creme brulee, strawberry margarita baked Alaska, white chocolate raspberry mousse.
“Can I have more?” was the most asked question. The students who participated included Shaylah Gates of Wells, Sierra Dyer of Detroit, Jacob Raymond of Webster Plantation, Donald Grindle of Bucksport, Jacob Bonbille of Presque Isle, Josh Barnard of Calais and Tamra Cummings of Pembroke.