Second annual Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Farmington draws 70 participants

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Approximately 70 adventurous souls from throughout San Juan County rang in 2023 at noon on New Year’s Day with a frigid swim in Lake Farmington to raise money for a nonprofit organization.

The second annual Dave and Friends Polar Bear Plunge, organized by local businessman Dave Dailey, had raised $1,700 by Jan. 3, Dailey said, although donations were continuing to trickle in, and he was hopeful the effort would reach its goal of $2,000 by the end of the week.

Funds raised from the event have been earmarked for Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico, a Farmington-based organization that helps residents of San Juan, Rio Arriba and McKinley counties overcome sexual assault situations.

Dozens of swimmers make their way into Lake Farmington on New Year's Day for the second annual Dave and Friends Polar Bear Plunge.

Dailey said conditions on New Year’s Day were better than expected, with an air temperature of 40 degrees and a water temperature of 36 degrees. The forecast had called for snow, and Dailey said there was a little rain when the crowd that eventually would swell to approximately 200 people began to gather at the lake at 11:30 a.m.

But the moisture held off during the plunge itself, and that meant it felt considerably warmer for this year’s event than during the inaugural version last year, when the temperature was 26 degrees with a 20 mph wind and snow covering the ground.

“It was great,” Dailey said. “ … It appeared everybody there had a wonderful time.”

With an air temperature of 40 degrees and a water temperature of 36 degrees, conditions for this year's Dave and Friends Polar Bear Plunge were considerably better than last year's inaugural event.

Some of this year’s participants — who numbered 10 more than last year — were so excited about the event, in fact, that they staged a competition to see who could remain in the lake the longest. Dailey said he had to bail out after only a minute, but two other men — Tim Ulrich and Jose Ruybalid — toughed it out for seven minutes each.

“The weather was perfect,” Dailey said. “ … It was so pleasant, people were just hanging out afterward.”

Organizer Dave Dailey warms himself in a bathrobe next to spectator Shannon Bauer after the second annual Dave and Friends Polar Bear Plunge on New Year's Day at Lake Farmington.

Dailey has plans to bring the plunge back next year for its third year, as the event already seems to have become a holiday tradition.

“It’s good to see the community come together for something so fun, and Sexual Assault Services is such an important piece of the community,” he said. “We need to support them.”

Those who still wish to donate to the organization on behalf of the event can do so by visiting

Jose Ruybalid emerges from the water after being one of two swimmers to spend seven minutes in Lake Farmington on New Year's Day during the second annual Dave and Friends Polar Bear Plunge.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 Support local journalism with a digital subscription: