BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

With temperatures reaching 17 degrees below zero, organizers of the Polar Plunge Saturday were forced to call off the annual event — which raises money for the Special Olympics Wisconsin.

"Due to the wind chill, the Madison Plunge has been cancelled," officials posted on the Special Olympics Wisconsin website.

The Polar Plunge was scheduled to have taken place in Lake Mendota at Olin/Turville Park Saturday, with the first plunges to commence at 11:30 a.m.

Participants in the annual event are asked to raise money by collecting donations from family, friends and other sponsors, after which, on the day of the event, they take a dip into the frigid lake water.

But according to George Twigg, communications director for Mayor Dave Cieslewisz, when the drillers made holes for the plungers Saturday, the water kept freezing over.

"The event coordinators decided that it was really cold and started to have second thoughts about [letting people jump in the water]," Twigg said.

Twigg added the mayor was at Olin/Turville Park Saturday ready to judge the event but, like all the participants, returned home due to the sub-zero temperatures.

"The mayor thought that canceling the event was the right thing to do because of safety," Twigg said.

According to Paul Taylor, a University of Wisconsin freshman, officials had the right idea when they cancelled the Polar Plunge, but he added he was disappointed.

"I was not that surprised because I expected the Polar Plunge to be cancelled," Taylor said. "It sucks because the reason we get interested is not only to raise money for the Special Olympics, but for the plunge itself."

Taylor said he raised $120 for the Special Olympics and that his entire dorm raised about $3,000.

Carrie Norquist, a third-year UW pharmacy student, said she figured the Polar Plunge would be cancelled. But despite the cold temperatures, Norquist said she, like many others, was prepared to take the plunge.

"I was ready to do it," Norquist said. "I was surprised because a lot of people were ready to plunge."

According to Norquist, Shopko — a corporate sponsor of the plunge — donated most of the money for her group.

Polar Plunge officials did not return phone calls as of press time.