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Feb 2, 2012
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Des Moines Winter Games

By Jared Curtis

Participants brave the cold during last year’s Polar Plunge. This year’s Polar Plunge will kick off the 5th annual Des Moines Winter Games, Feb. 3-5. Events will be held at various locations throughout the city including Sleepy Hollow Sports Park. For more information, visit

Although Iowa winters can put a damper on some athletes heading outside into the cold, the Des Moines Winter Games warms competitors up with an array of events that take place across the metro.

“There are lots of cool events going on, and it allows people to do some fun things they can’t participate in during any other time of the year,” said Max Kenkel, general manager of Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, where the events will kick off on Friday night.

This will be the fifth year for the Des Moines Winter Games. Teams and participates need to register (, but people interested in watching the competitions can attend for free.

“Last year, I think there were 1,500 to 2,000 people who participated in the events and probably just as many people watching,” Kenkel said.

Some of the popular events include the broomball tournament, sno-ball softball, the downhill kayak races, the downhill ski bike competitions, the downhill cardboard races and rail jam.

“The rail jam has become extremely popular, and we get a huge crowd for that,” Kenkel said. “Each year, the number of competitors grow as more and more people hear about the events.”

One of the most popular events kicks off their year’s games — the polar plunge.

“A lot of people participate, and it’s a rush for sure. It’s very intense, but it’s a different feeling than people expect,” said Kenkel, who participated in the first few Polar Plunges. “Not only is it a fun event, but people like to see people do dumb things. Plus, this year, it’s for a good cause.”

In year’s past the plunge has been free, but this year, the Drake chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is holding the plunge as a fundraising event for their organization. SIFE is an international nonprofit organization that works to fulfill community needs through business knowledge and skills.

“We initially planned on hosting our own Polar Plunge, and someone recommended Sleepy Hollow. In the past, Sleepy Hollow has always done a free Polar Plunge but they were interested in us getting involved, so we decided to charge $5 with all the proceeds going to our organization,” said London James, junior accounting and finance double major at Drake University. “The Des Moines Winter Games has a great reputation and already a promising turnout, so we were thrilled with the opportunity to partner with them and hope to continue doing so each year. I think it will be relaxing and entertaining for everyone to embrace a good cause and laugh at the jumpers making fools of themselves in their costumes.”

Along with Sleepy Hollow, events will take place at Brenton Skating Plaza, Savage Softball Park, Greater Des Moines Softball Complex and Carney Softball Park. No matter if you’re competing or not, Kenkel encourages everyone to experience the fun the Des Moines Winter Games offer.

“The Winter Games is a an extremely cool event that is unique to the city. A lot of the bigger surrounding cities have huge events, and we hope to continue to build the event every year,” he said. “There’s not a lot to do during the winter, so it’s a great way to get outside and have some fun.” CV

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