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To the unaware observer, the long line of people in costume jumping into the icy pond at Glen Lake Rotary Park in the middle of February would have seemed strange.

But for those participating, it was a day full of excitement, comradery and supporting a good cause. And the sun was shining.

“It’s a good day for cold water,” Janice Enos said while waiting in the line.

About 150 people, some in teams and some individual, hopped into the pond water as part of the Presidents Polar Plunge on Saturday, an annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Montana. It’s one of the organization’s primary fundraisers and helps pay for transportation, lodging and equipment for athletes.

The nonprofit provides sports training, competition and health-related programming for people with intellectual disabilities.

Tom Hazen, development director for Special Olympics Montana, said in rough estimates Saturday’s event had raised between $45,000 and $50,000. He said 40% of that goes toward state operations, and the rest stays in Bozeman.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is responsible for organizing and running the event. The nationwide movement aims to gain support and generate awareness around the Special Olympics while getting law enforcement involved.

Hazen said the movement is critical.

“We can’t exist without them,” Hazen said.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, Montana Highway Patrol and Civil Air Patrol all helped out with the event.

Mark Hernandez with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has been the coordinator of the polar plunge for the last five years. He said he has a cousin with special needs and that it was an easy decision to volunteer. He said the polar plunge is a lot of fun.

“All you have to do is come out and watch. I guarantee you’ll want to do it next year,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez spoke before the event began to say Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies would take the first plunge of the day in honor of late-Deputy Jake Allmendinger, who was killed in an accident in October while responding to a call of a stranded driver on Fairy Lake Road.

Hernandez said Allmendinger always volunteered for the event and was on the crew that breaks open a section of ice with chainsaws so people can jump in.

The hundreds of people who gathered for the event bowed their heads in a moment of silence.

The deputies took the plunge in full uniform. Other groups were dressed in grass skirts and Hawaiian leis, graduation caps and gowns and superhero capes.

As soon as people were out of the freezing water, they’d run to the nearby hot tubs, provided by Mountain Hot Tub. Loud rock and pop music blared, getting those in line pumped up. People cheered and clapped after each group took their turn.

Christine Lutzenberger took the plunge with her husband, representing onXmaps. She said they wanted to get involved because it’s a wonderful cause. Lutzenberger said she hopes to do it again next year with a larger group.

“It was awesome. Exhilarating,” Lutzenberger said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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