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Dunkers brave snow, cold for annual Havre de Grace Duck Dunk

BY DAVID ANDERSON, daanderson@baltsun.com

2:05 PM EST, January 18, 2014

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For veteran dunkers, wading into the frigid waters off of the Havre de Grace Yacht Basin for the Susquehanna Hose Company's annual Duck Dunk does not get any easier on the second or third go-round.

No," Jami Gomez, of Havre de Grace, said when asked if the dunking got any easier with time.

Gomez, a member of the Hose Company, dunked along with three friends during the third annual Duck Dunk, held Saturday morning.

This year was the third for Gomez.

"It's worse, because then you know what to expect," she explained. "Then you know how bad it really is."

One of her fellow dunkers, Audrey Buchanan, of Abingdon, was a first timer.

"Oh my gosh, it was freezing," Buchanan, who is also a member of the Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps, said after she dried off. "When you go in your legs and your feet instantly go numb, so you don't feel them."

The Duck Dunk is similar to polar bear plunges held around the state each winter, with a Havre de Grace duck-themed twist.

Duck decoys donated by local carvers served as prizes, and a mascot in a duck costume could be seen among the spectators.

The event is a major fundraiser for the Hose Company. Fire Chief Scotty Hurst said about $18,000 has been raised from the two previous events. The proceeds go to the company's general fund.

Wendi Hurst and Dena Cardwell, whose husbands are members of the fire company, organized Saturday's event.

Wendi Hurst, who is married to Scotty Hurst's brother, Shawn, said proceeds come from business sponsorships, raffles and money raised by the dunkers. She said nearly 20 dunkers participated Saturday; the amount of money raised for the 2014 dunk was not immediately available.

She said about 25 to 30 people came out last year; Hurst noted the colder-than-usual weather had an effect on the turnout this year, as some people who were sick or were concerned about getting sick, stayed home.

Temperatures were in the low 30s and snow flurries swirled Saturday morning as the dunkers prepared to charge down the Yacht Basin's boat ramp and into the water.

Members of the Hose Company stood in the water at chest-high depth to receive the dunkers – they were wearing cold-weather gear and life jackets while the dunkers wore shorts and short-sleeved shirts or bathing suits.

A few of the dunkers wore costumes.

Several veteran dunkers and fire company officials noted the weather for the Duck Dunk was the coldest it has been in three years.

Havre de Grace City Councilman Bill Martin, who went in twice Saturday, said "this was the coldest it's ever been."

"The second time, it hurts," he told spectators as he came out after his second dip.

This year was his second taking part in the Duck Dunk.

"Last year was cold; this year it hurts, but it's for a good cause," Martin said.

Martin said the brief pain of getting in and out of the cold water was worth it to support the fire company.

"These men and women that volunteer, they get up at 3 in the morning all year round [to answer calls]," he said. "The way I look at it, we can jump in the river for one minute to support them."

He was recognized as the top fundraiser, with $250 collected. Mayor Wayne Dougherty, who did not dunk, raised $200 and Alex Cardwell, the teenage son of Dena and Ron Cardwell, raised $160 and dunked.

They all received duck decoys donated by local carvers. The "best costume" award winner, Steve Kenton, of the Susquehanna Hose Company, also received a duck.

The ducks were donated by carvers Charlie, Bobby and Joey Jobes, and Pat Vincenti, according to the event organizers.

Local photographer Scott Moody donated a print of the Concord Point Lighthouse as a raffle prize, which Chanse Scott won, according to Wendi Hurst.

She said Linda Packard won a Kindle Fire, also a raffle prize, donated by Eddy Ann Hurst – mother of Scotty and Shawn – in memory of her late husband Lee.

Wendi Hurst noted a number of businesses provided sponsorships and contributed food and drinks.

Bill Bateman's Bistro of Havre de Grace provided a free breakfast for the dunkers Saturday morning and hosted a party for them Friday night; 15 percent of Friday's proceeds went to the fire company.

Participants could also enjoy donuts from the local Dunkin' Donuts and hot drinks from Java by the Bay.

The Duck Dunk drew people from Harford County, as well as out-of-state residents.

Shane Seningen, a resident of Brookhaven, Pa., who keeps his boat at the City Marina, dunked for the first time Saturday.

He said it was "actually not as bad as I thought it would be, not good, but also not as bad."

"I'm shivering off what little body fat I had," he remarked to his friend and fellow first-time dunker, Scott Karg, of Havre de Grace.

Karg also keeps his boat at the marina. He noted the volunteers of the Susquehanna Hose Company would respond to an emergency at his family's home or when they were on the water.

"If something were to happen, that's who's going to come and save the day," he said.