The New Year brings another Polar Bear Plunge

New Year’s Day in Pottstown means one thing: it’s time for the 5th Annual Polar Bear Plunge! Come on out to Riverfront Park at 140 College Drive to watch, or join in by plunging into the Schuylkill River at 10:30 am. All participants must sign a waiver.

There will be plenty of other activities to keep the sane folks entertained, from a Christmas Tree Toss to the Fruitcake Roll, a bonfire, a card game, hot dogs, sauerkraut, hot chocolate and coffee. Everything starts heating up at 9 am, but that’s just a figure of speech; the weather report is calling for an overcast day with flurries possible. Read all about it here in this Mercury article by Frank Otto.

Two years ago I took the plunge, but I have been a wimp ever since. Still, I expect to be there tomorrow morning to cheer on the brave Polar Bears of the Pottstown area. Will you be taking the Plunge?

Plunge into New Year and the Schuylkill River on January 1st

Pottstown’s very own Polar Bear Plunge will take place tomorrow morning at 10:30 am on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Riverfront Park. Participating polar bears – humans in varying states of undress – must sign a waiver ahead of time.

All of the New Year festivities, which are sponsored by the Borough Parks & Recreation Department, begin at 9 a.m. with registration for the Polar Bear swimmers. At the same time, all visitors can participate in a card game that involves swapping cards with other visitors and getting to meet new people.

At 10 a.m., the National Anthem will be sung and the crowd will hear a few words from Mayor Bonnie Heath. The Christmas Tree Toss will begin and the bonfire will be lit by the Philadelphia Steam Fire Company. There may be a new event added, such as a fruit cake toss. Then, at 10:30 a.m., the swimmers will descend into the Schuylkill’s waters. Afterwards, they can dry off and warm up by the bonfire and purchase hot dogs and sauerkraut, which is supposed to bring good fortune in the coming year.

Weather.com is calling for partly cloudy skies and a high of 53 degrees. The river waters will definitely be colder than that. If you’re up for a bracing way to start off 2012 and want to be part of a community event that keeps getting bigger and better, get out to Riverfront Park tomorrow morning!

Cheers for 2011!

I took the plunge this morning, along with about 120 other more daring Polar Bears at Pottstown’s 4th Annual Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by the Parks & Rec Department and organized by Bill & Sue Krause. Hundreds watched from the banks of the Schuylkill in Riverfront Park. Here’s a link to The Mercury’s early coverage.

I only went about thigh-deep. My feet went numb within about 10 seconds. Yes, I wore a wetsuit. With the practically balmy air temp – in the 40s – the suit was more useful as a barrier against the Schuylkill River slop that got stirred up and squished between my toes. The smell coming out of the river rivaled that of a failing septic field.  Yes, it was a uniquely charming outdoor experience.

In a surprise appearance by my younger sister and her sons, I was accompanied in the river by my brave 13-year-old nephew, Patrick, who went in a lot deeper. Thanks, you guys!! The bonfire steamed everyone dry, people continued with the tree toss, hot dogs & sauerkraut and hot chocolate warmed people up, and there were some lucky winners of a community card game. This was one more community event that drew hundreds from all around the region – an awesome start to 2011!

(If I ever figure out how to upload the video shot by my other nephew, I’ll let you know :-))

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