Halloween is still two weeks away, but on Shelter Island people are already starting to look for costumes they can wear in late November, when the water off Crescent Beach is so cold that their friends pay them to jump in.
The Shelter Island Public Library has put up its sign-in sheet for the Turkey Plunge, an annual event that is only three years old — not long enough to become a tradition, but important enough to have helped pay off the small library’s $700,000 expansion.
The sheet lists people who are taking pledges to jump in; the library also is putting together a list of people who want to be a sponsor but don’t know any of the plungers.
Last year, about 175 people took part in the Turkey Plunge, and another 175 or so watched from the shore. Most plungers were in bathing suits, about one in five came in costume — with Viking helmets or turkey caps on their heads, for example. They raised about $18,000 last year and officials expect a similar amount this year.
It was a big crowd for a town whose year-round population is only 2,300.
“Last year was mild, but the year before it was freezing,” said library director Denise DiPaolo, who took part in the plunge. “The wind really whipped.”
Shelter Island voters decided to pay for their library lower level expansion and renovation through private fundraising instead of by selling bonds and raising taxes. The renovated building had its grand opening in June.
Above: Shelter Island poet Hilary King reads from her recent book, "Love & Other Poems," at the Shelter Island Library. (May 7, 2011)