Yeti Fest 2024 Held In Warroad


March 23, 2024

Tom Heppner and Jesse Solo

by Laurel Latham

The tradition of taking a cold water plunge was a common practice among the Scandinavians and Vikings for hundreds of years. For Scandinavians, the cold plunge was seen as a way to cleanse the body and mind, boost energy, improve circulation, and start each day with a new perspective.

The Vikings believed the cold plunge would connect them with the gods and nature by purifying their body and soul, and increase their physical strength and mental toughness.

The brave plungers at Yeti Fest 2024, held on a chilly Saturday, March 16, had all those many benefits in mind, along with how funds raised at Yeti Fest, will go far in benefiting the many programs for youth in the area!

The Warroad Fire Department cut through 18 inches of ice on the Warroad River in preparation for the Polar Plunge.

"After the earlier warm weather, we were hoping for weather in the 40s and 50s," said Warroad Fire Department Chief, Damian McMillin. "With the icy wind on Saturday, it had to be one of the colder plunges. Mother Nature made us work a little harder this year.

"Warroad Fire Department considers Yeti Fest our welcome to spring event," continued Damian. "We always have a great time at the Polar Plunge, seeing all the crazy costumes people wear to make the jump. There's always lots of fun and laughter!"

Unlike the Polar Plungers, the firemen wear cold weather rescue suits with quilted interiors for warmth while they spend 45 minutes to an hour in the frigid river.

"Except for a little cold water that can seep in around the neck, we stay pretty warm," explained Damian. "This year we had 54 plungers, compared to 89 plungers last year, which I'm sure was due to the weather."

Both Patti Hodgson and husband Pete joined in on the Yeti Fest Polar Plunge. Patti described how it felt jumping into the icy river water.

"There were two seconds of invigorating cold, but the minute I climbed out of the water, I felt much warmer," said Patti. "Krueger Ice Cabins donated two cabins for plungers to dry off in and Warroad Rentals donated a cabin for the firemen."

Patti Hodgson's dedication and enthusiasm for the Yeti Fest event and raising money for the Warroad Special Olympics is truly inspirational. She has an incredible group of volunteers who work tirelessly with her to make the yearly Yeti Fest event held in Warroad successful. Patti, an educator at Warroad Elementary, and her group of volunteers, know the money raised yearly at Yeti Fest is crucial for all the many youth programs in our area. Programs like the Spring Track and Field Team, the Warroad Unified Swim Team, and the Fall Bowling Team.

"Special Olympics Minnesota began hosting the Polar Plunge in Warroad in 2013," explained Patti Hodgson. "In 2021, Yeti Fest evolved when our Plunge Team collaborated with the St. Patty's Day 5K Team to plan a full day of events together.

"Our planning team chose to host the Yeti Plunge on our own to keep 100% of the funds raised local to support our own Warroad Special Olympics Team and Unified Champion Schools."

This year's Yeti Fest 5K was moved from an evening run to an 11 a.m. run, hoping to draw more runners.

"Last year's 7 p.m. Fun Run on the ice was breathtaking, with the sunset's beautiful colors on the horizon, but we decided it would be safer to run at 11 a.m. We did get more runners this year and younger runners. This year we had 45 runners compared to 18 last year. The 5K Fun Run isn't really meant to be a race, but more a participation run, but each runner is given their time."

Aaron Marvin had the best time of 22:20.14. Chelsea Nelson was second with a time of 24:20.09, and Dyana Fish finished third with her time of 24:50.31. All runners are listed on the Warroad Yeti Fest Facebook page.

Warroad Yeti Fest began at 9 a.m. on March 16, with Christina Peterson of Warroad Body & Balance providing Pint & Pose Yoga. Amelia Lily with Lilypad Massage, was on site to provide upper body massage.

Warroad Robotics brought "Isabella" to Yeti Fest, so others could try running this year's robot. Warroad Women of Today ended the day with Bingo at 5 p.m.

Doug's Supermarket provided a much appreciated catered lunch. Northern Toboggan Co. held a Toboggan Run at 1 p.m. Since there wasn't any snow, it was necessary to improvise with wheels. The Fastest Puck of the North competition took place after lunch, with numerous street games for Yeti Fest attendees to take part in. A fun kiddie train was borrowed from Lake of the Woods Fair for the children to ride in.

"This year's Yeti Fest event raised just over $12,000 for our 501C3 "Dream Big" account," reports Patti Hodgson. "We are very excited to sponsor the iCan Bike program in Warroad this summer, beginning July 28. The goal of iCan Bike is to teach individuals with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle so they can become lifelong independent riders.

"Riders attend one 75 minute session each day for five consecutive days, where they learn to ride while accompanied and encouraged by volunteer spotters," continued Patti. "Over the course of the week, adapted bikes are adjusted in an effort to challenge riders' balance as they gradually discover the skill and joy of riding. Many riders have tried for years to learn to ride a bike without success."

According to the iCan Ride program, approximately 80% of riders will learn to independently ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle during the one week program. The remaining 20% make tremendous progress towards that goal. Riders are children ages eight and up, as well as teens and adults who have a disability and are able to side-step and walk without assistive devices.

As many of us remember, there really is nothing quite like that moment of euphoria when a rider realizes they are riding on their own for the very first time. The wind in your hair, sun on your face moment, pedaling with all your might, and balanced on your very own set of two-wheels. The adventure and freedom riding offers promotes independence, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment.

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike." John F. Kennedy

A huge THANK YOU to all the sponsors, swag bag donors, and volunteers who made Warroad 2024 Yeti Fest possible. Thank You to all families, friends, and the entire Warroad and Surrounding Communities for continuing to support our local Special Olympics Teams & Events!

Photos by Heather Morey


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