KENNEWICK -- A record number of 684 people took the plunge for Special Olympics at Saturday's Kennewick Polar Plunge in Columbia Park.
Among those who dared to chill out in 37-degree water were Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who said afterward that "it was breathtaking."
McKenna was one of more than two dozen members of Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg's team, which included most chiefs from law enforcement agencies across the Tri-Cities.
The event, held at the east end of Columbia Park, raised about $125,000 in cash and in-kind donations for Special Olympics.
Hundreds of people in various excuses for swimwear huddled to avoid breezes skipping across the water. Some people wore shorts, others suits and ties or formal gowns. There was more skin and tattoos than costumes this year.
Mostly blue skies showed up for the fifth annual event, and so did a large group of spectators, who packed close around the boat ramps.
Every parking lot at Columbia Park within walking distance of the polar plunge site was packed.
Saturday's plunge set several new records, nearly doubling the number of jumpers from a year ago, and beating the 2011 total for Special Olympics by $25,000 for a new high of $125,000.
"It was a record-breaker," said Hohenberg, who was pleased with the strong public participation.
With 300 more plungers than in 2011, many people were taking their first dip into frigid water for the good cause.
Bryan Denise, 31, of Kennewick was one.
Denise said it was his way of "doing something crazy because I'm not getting any younger."
As a member of Benny's Bandersnatchers, Denise said the water was colder than he expected, but once he got out, a tingling sensation swept over his body.
"It was really cool," Denise said while accepting dry clothes from his wife Julie, who had initially urged him to not take the plunge.
Chris Rumsey Wendt, 39, of Pasco, also was a first-timer. She, along with her daughter, sister, mother and brother-in-law, took a soaking as the team Shady Characters.
Wendt's Hawaiian-themed outfit was drenched, but she claimed to be "feeling warm" minutes after immersing herself in the river.
"Our team raised about $1,700," Wendt said proudly, noting that their family jumped at the chance to support Special Olympics because of a nephew who participates in the program.
Saturday's plunge was well equipped with hot tubs to aid quick recovery, separate men's and women's warm-up tents and changing rooms, hot beverages, a Kettle Corn vendor and plenty of emergency medical crews on standby, if needed.
Members of the Columbia Basin Dive Rescue were at dockside and in the water to help swimmers out of the river.
Hohenberg said McKenna left the Tri-Cities with what the attorney general said was "a great impression of Eastern Washington."