It was a skiing vacation that took a turn for the even colder.
John Ernst and his son, John, were driving home to Canton, Ohio, from Killington, Vt., after spending a weekend skiing with Derrick Sanderson, a friend of the younger John.
As they drove down Route 4 by Skenesborough Drive, they noticed Tony Cardamone (they didn’t know who he was) holding a sign.
“We saw the guy who was holding the sign up for the pancake breakfast and Penguin Dip,” said the father. “My son said that he thought they were having a fishing tournament, but I told him that it was far from that.”
John, Sr. said that he had previously participated in similar events with a Polar Bear Club in Ohio, and that he informed the two teens about the event and asked if they were interested.
“We saw the sign and what it said and we decided to stop by,” said the younger Ernst. “We found out what it was and I decided to do it. We have one back in Ohio that we have participated in.”
“We were in the truck when we saw the sign,” said Sanderson. “John’s Dad was asking about doing it and I knew that if he said yes and was going to do it, I had to go in then.”
After a hearty pancake breakfast at the Skenesborough Fire House, the duo next found themselves at the boat launch at the Skenesborough Park, both wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts – not ideal clothing for a morning that, while sunny, didn’t hit 20 degrees until well after the Penguin Dip ended.
First up was John, who walked down to the ice to cheers from the crowd who recognized the distance they had traveled to participate in the dip, even if their participation was a matter of happenstance.
As John descended the ladder and entered the freshly cut hole in the Champlain Canal, a little yelp came out of his already shivering lips.
“Thank God that it is over now,” he said in the warming tent that was set up for the participants after the event. “I couldn’t breathe the whole time I was in there.”
“I want to go back in again if I get the chance,” said Sanderson, who followed Ernst and also was the final dipper of the day. “You had to take the shortest breaths while you were in there.”
The duo changed and after receiving congratulations from the Whitehall faithful and the elder Ernst, the trio of Ohio-ites packed back into their truck and returned to the road and their trip back to Canton.
With the heater turned up to high.