The brave and the hardy prepare for the fifth Leprechaun Plunge on Sunday in South Hadley

Sunday, March 16, 2014
SOUTH HADLEY — With snow still on the ground, more than 100 brave souls have vowed to leap into the Connecticut River Sunday for the fifth annual Leprechaun Plunge at Brunelle’s Marina.

Each year, “plungers” — who range from representatives of local businesses and nonprofit organizations to high school athletes — raise funds for local and national charities by collecting pledges for their plunges in the weeks before they take the jump at the marina at 1 Alvord St.

The charities to benefit this year are the Jimmy Fund, Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield, the Pioneer Valley USO at Westover Air Reserve Base, Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry in South Hadley, the Joe Kareta Scholarship Fund, as well as South Hadley youth groups such as sports teams, school bands and arts departments. The Plunge has raised more than $200,000 since it started. Last year, the event raised about $93,000 toward a goal of $100,000 — a goal that Luke Brunelle Jr., an owner and the president of the marina, said he hopes will be met this year.

So far, more than 130 people have registered, Brunelle said. In past years, the same number of people have registered on the day of the event as those who preregistered, he said, so he is expecting at least 300 plungers on Sunday.

The event begins with registration from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Those who have preregistered also must check in. A plunger orientation goes from 12:30 to 1 p.m., before the first plungers enter the water around 1.

New this year is the Shamrock Salute Parade, which will consist of Shriners clowns, go-karts, riders and other Shriners representatives from throughout New England, as well as the Holyoke Caledonia Pipe Band and the USO Color Guard. The parade begins on Ferry Street at 12:30 p.m. and will march to the marina.

At 2 p.m. there will be a corned beef dinner catered by Old Towne Caterers in South Hadley, during which there will be an award celebration. Teams and individuals who raised the most funds will be recognized. There also will be a costume contest where the funniest, most creative, best team and best children’s costumes will be recognized.

Brunelle said that while he hopes the weather will be sunny and warm, he expects the water temperature to be the coldest it has ever been because of the long winter and snow melting into the river.

Fire recovery

Meanwhile, the rebuilding of the Dockside Restaurant, which burned down in an electrical fire in July, has progressed at a steady pace through the winter. The new structure is being built by Sage Engineering & Contracting Inc. of Westfield, and seems to be fully enclosed, Brunelle said. He said he has no specific open date for the new building, but is aiming for late May or early June.

The tents that have housed an outdoor restaurant since the fire will reopen in early May.

With no indoor facility where participants can warm up after their plunges, Brunelle said the tents by the dock will be heated, but urges plungers to have their towels and a change of clothes ready.

Because he is busy with the rebuilding, Brunelle credits boat owners Ray and Rudi Morin; Russell Sawyer, president of All Star Dairy Foods, Inc. in South Hadley; Marilyn Sicotte, who for a long time managed White Wing Package Store in South Hadley and is a relative of the late Joe Kareta; and local real estate agent Marcia Petri for taking on various organizing duties for this year’s event.

“It’s a challenge, but I have to say I’ve had a great team,” Brunelle said. “Those people worked very hard to help this event be a success.”

Registration forms are available at White Wing Package Store, 568 Newton St., and Center Day Spa, 7 Hadley St., or can be printed from leprechaunplunge.com. The cost of registration is $30. All plungers must raise at least $100.