Lake Ronkonkoma celebrates New Year's with first-ever polar bear plunge

LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY ( / — The weather was nippy and skies cloudy, making the atmosphere perfectly festive for the very first polar bear plunge in Lake Ronkonkoma.

Brave swimmers undaunted by the cold took a dip into the lake at noon on New Year’s Day to welcome 2021. Eight swimmers and over 40 spectators gathered outside Parsnip Lake House at 432 Smithtown Blvd. for the polar bear plunge. Parsnip Lake House is on the northern side of the lake.

The Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group hosted the event. Organizers believe this was the first time there has ever been a New Year’s polar bear plunge at the lake.

Member Deniz Peksen came up with the idea for the polar bear plunge.

"The last five years I've done the polar bear plunge in Long Beach. It's a huge event there." Peksen said. "But, being that I live out here in Suffolk County, I felt the need to establish a tradition that can lead to the benefit of my community."

Peksen added, "It was mildly organized, with tons of support from my friends at the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group, Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society, and a few other social media groups, as well as Chris and crew at the Lake House, aka parsnips, who hosted the experience for all the spectators that came out. I'm overwhelmed by the support and the turnout of people who came to watch. It was definitely an excellent time and now each year on New Year's day at 12 noon there will always be people braving the cold at Lake Ronkonkoma for a swim."

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Evelyn Vollgraff, co-founder of the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group, said, "The feedback was fantastic and everybody loved it. Based on the turnout and feedback, this is going to become an annual event."

Vollgraff added, "We're going to start organizing it in the fall, and we're going to make it a fundraiser based on community needs at the time, which might be the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society or a local soup kitchen, for example."

As OnSachem News reported earlier this week, the polar bear plunge is one way the all-volunteer organization is restoring the lake. The group is focused on cleaning the lake, restoring beauty to the area, and bringing back the community to the lakeshore.

After the quick dip, many of the swimmers and spectators stayed for refreshments at Parsnip Lake House. Learn more about Parsnip at

Scroll through the photo gallery to see how everyone enjoyed the day.

More stories about the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group from OnSachem News

OnSachem News has covered the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group throughout the year. Here's a look at the stories from 2020.

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