MEDICINE PARK, Okla. (KFOR) – If you’re looking for peace and quiet, on most winter afternoons, you can find it on the banks of Medicine Creek.
‘Santa’ Charley Wright and his longtime friend Pat Shaughnessy don’t need to talk above screaming kids at the swimming hole or shout over the loud motorcycles cruising along the main drag of Medicine Park.
It’s actually a great time to remember another quiet get-together at the Park Tavern down the street back in the late 90s.
Charley was there that day with a few beers in him when the subject came up about how to get more people to visit in winter.
The TV was showing a group of Russians jumping in cold water.
He recalls saying, “‘Well heck. We can do that.’ Then we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Then, from there, we said, ‘When are we going to do it?’ ‘Well, what about next Saturday?'”
That’s really how the Medicine Park Polar Plunge got started, 9 or 10 people walking from bar to cold, cold bath.
Charley tested the water temperature regularly and remembers it, “Typically around 39 or 40 degrees. Something like that.”
When Pat moved here a few years later, more people were showing up.
We brought out cameras back in 2007 when they both had to break ice before allowing swimmers in the water.
“That ain’t cold,” one swimmer told us just after jumping out. “That’s real cold right there.”
History and fun go back a long time in Medicine Park.
Everyone from weekend renters to gangsters hiding out dipped their toes here at some point.
“We seem to be a costume parade of loonies,” smiles Shaughnessy.
The Polar Plunge is a weeklong celebration now thanks, in part, to Pat who scheduled a whole series of events leading up to the weekend.
“It’s literally like a winter Chatauqua,” he says.
The Plunge itself only takes a few seconds.
But that idea that started back in 1998 still holds the town in its icy grip.
The event brings people from all over to test these healing waters and live to tell the tale over drinks later.
Charley predicts, “If I jump this year, it’s probably guaranteed that my heart is going to be good for at least one more year.”
For more information on the Medicine Park Polar Bear Plunge, go to the event Facebook page.