When it’s just after 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day and I spot three guys wearing kilts and drinking Guinness, I’m pretty much required to snap their photo. This is how I met Cisco Powell, Cy Platt and Chris Cherest, whose kilts were still damp from the 5:30 a.m. St. Paddy’s Day Plunge at East End Beach in Portland. The event raises funds for the Portland Firefighters Children’s Burn Foundation.

I met up with them at Ri Ra Irish Pub, where the post-plunge party and live auction were in full swing before the sun even tickled the eastern horizon.

“It’s all about St. Patrick’s Day,” Powell told me. “We’re doing it for the Children’s Burn Foundation. We’re in the spirit. Every year we like to do something different.”

These guys weren’t the only ones feeling the Irish spirit, fueled by the free breakfast and the fast-flowing Guinness.

“It was actually not that bad,” John Seymore told me when I asked about his jump into the 39-degree water. This marked the seventh year he’s taken the plunge.

Seymore brought along his friend Luke Delahanty, who prior to 5:30 a.m. was a St. Paddy’s Day Plunge virgin.

“I always wanted to do it, ” Dela- hanty told me. “It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’ve done some polar dipping in college.”

This prompted Seymore to add, “In other states people experiment with drugs in college. In Maine we experiment with polar dipping.”

Jamie Thomits, who’s done the plunge three years running, told me the water “was actually warmer than in past years.”

Her friend Jordan Scott confided that the group she was with “got there eight minutes late, and they’d already done the plunge. So we jumped in anyway.”

First-time plunger Shaun Fitzpatrick found the icy shock of the water to be “better than coffee.” And even though he’d been on dry land for more than an hour and half when we chatted, he admitted he still couldn’t feel his feet.

“It’s nothing a couple more Guinnesses can’t cure,” Fitzpatrick said with a smile.

During the party, Brian DeVinney of Nappi Distributors served as the auctioneer for a big pile of beer-themed swag that the crowd was eager to bid on. He was assisted in the auction by Vanessa Lins and Paul Sottery, who both work for Shipyard Brewing.

After the auction, Ri Ra manager Audree Burns took to the stage to hand out two awards. The first one went to the team of 24 employees from Sappi, which raised almost $4,800 in pledges for the plunge.

The second award went to Lisa Petruccelli, whose pledges clocked in at $2,015 and represented the most collected by an individual.

The nonprofit Portland Firefighters Children’s Burn Foundation pays for local kids to attend a summer camp for burn victims, hosts its own winter burn camp at the Camden Snow Bowl and provides money and transportation to families whose children are being treated for burns in Boston.

“Last year we raised $11,000, which was a significant jump from previous years,” Dave Petruccelli told me. He is the organization’s founder, and Lisa Petruccelli is his sister. “It’s usually a couple weeks before we have a concrete number” of the amount raised.

But by the time the party officially ended at 8 a.m., the fundraiser was on track to break another record.

“This year’s goal is $15,000, and it’s looking like we’ll hit that no problem,” Burns told me.

With 166 people sprinting through the door at 6 a.m., the event attracted 44 more people than it did last year.

“The event began 10 years ago with a bunch of the kitchen guys who jumped in the water before they started their 6 a.m. shift,” Burns explained. “The next year (former bartender) Bob Conner said let’s do it for charity.”

The event has only grown from there.

And while the plungers were filtering out into the bright morning sunshine, Burns’ day was just beginning.

Looking across the jam-packed bar, Burns told me, “This is nothing compared to what it will be like in a couple hours. There will be a line out the door all day. Our capacity is 369 and we’ll hit that all day long. We’ll go through about 30 kegs of Guinness.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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