Annual Winter Swim Festival draws swimmers, volunteers to Newport

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Photo by Kathleene Marcil.
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NEWPORT — For three days at the end of February, Newport was transformed into the happiest place on the planet as 169 winter swimmers and approximately 40 volunteers gathered for the Tenth Annual Winter Swim Festival held on Lake Memphremagog at The EastSide Restaurant & Pub.

The festival, which took place from February 22-24, 2024, kicked off with an Opening Ceremony on Thursday, February 21. Mayor Linda Joy Sullivan cut the ribbon, followed by a Two Potato Gun Salute fired off by Michael Booth. The local winter swimmers, the Sharkbait Sheilas, led by Pam Ladds and Charlotte Brynn, inaugurated the event with a 25-meter swim in the ice pool.

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Following the opening, swimmers and volunteers attended a Warm-Up Party at Jasper’s Tavern, where several who had completed the 25-mile In Search of Memphre swim signed the bar’s ceiling, continuing a recently started tradition.

Swimmers traveled from various states and provinces, including British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, Ontario, the United Kingdom, New Brunswick, Quebec, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Despite varying weather conditions throughout the weekend, with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to as low as 2°F, swimmers competed in various events, including the 25-meter freestyle, breaststroke, and butterfly, as well as the 50-meter, 100-meter, and 200-meter freestyle, and relay events.

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Five new pool records were set this year by Stephanie Kors (25-meter freestyle), Amy Meskill (50-meter freestyle), Steven Rouch (100-meter and 200-meter freestyle, breaking his own records), and the Free Agent Team 1, led by Juliet Kadlecek (4×50 relay).

The festival also featured “grudge matches” among friends, with Ed Gabriels defeating Ted Hirsch in the 200-meter freestyle, and a relay showdown between Boston and New York, with New York’s Free Agent team setting a new pool record in the 4×50 relay.

Winners in several categories, including Para/Adoptive, Non-Binary, and Trans, were also recognized. Notable participants included Rena Demeo, Sam Levenson, Isabella Vallano, Medea Ramnath-Christiansen, and Chance Krempasky.

Those who placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd received varying amounts and sizes of Brault’s Beef Jerky and Couture’s Maple Syrup as prizes.

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