Home Vermont Lake Memphremagog sees worldwide travelers for the 10th Winter Swimming Festival

Lake Memphremagog sees worldwide travelers for the 10th Winter Swimming Festival


NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) – For the tenth year, more than 100 people from all over the world jumped into Lake Memphremagog, and the water is nearly as cold as the ice on top.

This is Marcie Nehld’s fifth year attending the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival. She traveled here with eight friends from Ohio to compete in the festival’s races and the beloved hat competition. She has a real love for what some may consider torture.

“It’s really invigorating. It really kind of wakes you up and makes you feel nice. I just like doing it,” said Nehld.

She’s not the only one. Daredevils come from near and far to dive into Vermont’s chilly waters. Joseph Pavey of Arlington, Massachusetts, enjoys his winter break cheering on his mom, and he hopes to compete with her next year.

“It’s really cold, but I like that, so it’s a really fun experience for everyone here,” said Pavey.

The three-day festival starts out with a hat competition, where athletes showcase remarkable homemade hats as they swim the length of a pool carved out of the lake’s ice.

“It’s just for the sheer joy of it, to get used to the water at the beginning of the event, and it turned into the most competitive event that’s here,” Safety Director Greg O’Connor said.

There are timed races throughout the weekend, bridging athletics, fun and fashion throughout the competition.

“People come here for the joy of it. It can be very painful doing all these swims, but by the time you get out you’re giddy with laughter,” said O’Connor.

While the hat competition may be over, the swimming the racing, and all the fun that comes with it will continue into Sunday.

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