The 2013 Warren County Winterfest is approaching rapidly and with it comes the Polar Bear Plunge.
It's an event on Saturday Jan. 19 in which the craziest of crazies will jump into the frigid lake at Chapman State Park.
I will be among them.
Times Observer file photo
Some hearty souls participate in the Polar Plunge at a previous Winterfest
Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to it, despite the near-hypothermic conditions my body will experience in the minutes during (and possibly hours following) the plunge.
First-time plungers Ashley Gloner and Emily Warner, members of the Northwest Savings Bank team, share my view on jumping into the icy water.
"I was volunteered for the plunge by a fellow employee, who also happens to be my best friend," laughed Gloner. "The idea of jumping in a freezing lake both scares me and is very thrilling. It's a good feeling though to be helping out families here in Warren."
"I'm just along for the ride and to see what it is like," said Warner. "Needless to say I'm a little nervous and I get cold even thinking about it. I've heard that it is a fun event and the past participants that I have talked to really had a blast, so as crazy as it sounds, I'm looking forward to it."
"I am a thrill-seeker," said Margaret Harris, "so what better way to start off the new year than plunging into frigid water?"
Harris' experience in the event allows her to add a bit of perspective for the newbies. "I really don't think there is a way to prepare physically. Mentally, I just tell myself, 'Hey, it could always be worse.' Plus, the warming hut's right next to the water do a good job of warming you up."
Though the adrenaline rush is her favorite part of the event, Harris said the most important part is the cause. "It's important to give back to the community," she said.
Locally, the Polar Bear Plunge benefits the Salvation Army, a tradition in the town that has raised more than $16,000 over the past three years. On a national level, hundreds, if not thousands, of similar plunges also take place benefiting countless non-profit organizations. Some of those organizations include the Special Olympics, United Cerebral Palsy, The Humane Society, and countless others.
As late as the middle of December, there had been concerns that another mild winter might have a negative impact on Winterfest 2013. Thankfully, for the event, Winter Storm Euclid passed through the area and took care of those concerns. Now I am almost guaranteed to be up to my knees in snow before sprinting into water that is 21 degrees colder than the average temperature of the drinking water that comes out of a faucet.
To fully document my participation in the local plunge, I will be wearing an underwater video camera to capture every second.
Some of those accompanying me this year will be the usual suspects from around the area: The Northwest Savings Bank team and 'Grizzly Gary' Wert's Camo Bikini Plunge team, among others. According to John Beard of the Northwest team, the theme this year for the bank is 'rock stars,' complete with inflatable guitars, in honor of President Bill Wagner. "That's what Bill would have been had he not chosen banking as a career," said Beard who is traditionally the one in charge of thinking up the colorful costumes each year.
Notable plungers in the past have included Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley last year as well as a band of pirates plus Pocahontas in 2011 despite the cancellation of the actual event itself.