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Irvington Residents Brave River for Penguin Plunge

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – The question in many Irvington residents' minds on Saturday was why a group of approximately 100 people would want to jump into the Hudson River as part of the Penguin Plunge fund-raiser.

“I keep asking myself that same question,” Dows Lane Elementary Principal Randy Lichtenwalner said about half an hour before diving into the river.

Residents taking the plunge raised about $76,000 to help support the Irvington Recreation Department and its village-wide events that had to be cut from the budget to save costs. Saturday's fund-raiser was specifically geared towards the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in the park.

Several hundred residents gathered at Matthiessen Park to watch the Penguin Plunge, and they lined the small beach that sits between the park and the Irvington Boat Club.

A few brave kids ventured to the river's edge to stick their fingers in the water and test its temperature. Most agreed that it was pretty cold. Kevin Gallagher, captain of the Irvington Frigid Water Rescue Team, estimated the water's temperature at 39 degrees. Gallagher and several other emergency responders were on hand to make sure that nothing went wrong.

The participants themselves dressed in costumes ranging from Batman and penguins to a group of bees. Two men dressed up in tuxedos for the plunge. Another man built a Titanic floatie to put around his waist.

Dressed in a wetsuit, swim floaties and a scuba mask, Lichtenwalner said he decided to take the plunge to support the programs put on by the village's recreation department that all the kids at his school enjoy. But he wasn't sure how deep into the water he would be going.

“I was told that all I had to do was put my toe in, but now they're sort of going back on that promise and saying I have to go all the way in, so we'll see,” Lichtenwalner said. “I'm asking the kids what they think I should do, and so far I've gotten answers up to my ankle and to my knees, and someone else said up to my floatie.”

School Board Member Robert Grados dressed up like Elvis in a white jumpsuit and red sunglasses.

“I think that if you're crazy enough to jump into the river in the wintertime, you have to go all out,” Grados said. “I'm going all the way in.”

Irvington residents debated whether the participants were crazy.

“It's pretty warm,” Chuck Gehman said. “If it were really cold, yes. But since it's not that cold, no.”

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