PolarBear dip has roots short on reasoning, long on fun

Published on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 by ike Kent

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Polar Bear dip has roots short on reasoning, long on fun

By Mike Kent

It was a cold New Year’s morning in Birch Bay in 1982 when a small group decided that jumping in the bay for a swim would be a novel and memorable way of bringing in the New Year.

Short on reasoning but long on enthusiasm, they did it again the next year with more friends and more the next. 

“The event now put on by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by www.undiscovered waterfront.com has grown to the point that we use traffic personnel, a media tent and crowd control measures,” said chamber president Marc Weigum.

“We’ve worked hard to provide maximum opportunity for the thousands of spectators to watch hundreds of participants run into the frigid New Years day waters of Birch Bay.”

Many have made this pilgrimage to test their frigid tolerance level a two-day event.

The Birch Bay festivities now start on New Years Eve when the “Ring of Fire and Hope” celebration kicks off. At 7 p.m. sharp more than 700 road flares are placed in the sand at the high tide line reflecting all the way around Birch Bay’s circumference.

“Based on last year’s overwhelming attendance, in its third year we expect no fewer than 1,000 people to take part and we encourage folks to dress warm and arrive early for this truly beautiful display of light and camaraderie. It’s amazing to observe folks from all over the region meet one another during the hour-long event,” said Weigum.
The next morning the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce’s 24th Annual Polar Bear swim kicks off with registration at 10 a.m. just outside the World Mark/Trend West Building.

Judges will be present to award for the oldest, funniest costume, best group, youngest, best dressed and crowd favorite categories at 11:30 a.m. with the Polar Bear Plunge at the sound of the gun at noon sharp. 

After the plunge The 49th Parallel Dixie Land Jazz Band will be performing at the Blue Fish between 1 – 4 p.m. The event is sponsored by Fred Meyer and Kroger.

Area hotels, restaurants and merchants always have special Polar Bear Plunge offerings and every year people come from farther away for the bragging rights of having made the plunge.

New Zealand, New Jersey and New York to name a few places you might spot someone wearing a Birch Bay Polar Bear Plunge participant t-shirt, which are provided to all the brave swimmers. 

While Hawaii may have the Ironman Competition, Birch Bay is world famous for the Polar Bear Plunge. When asked about other copycat events Marc was quick to point out, “This is the original and real polar bears swim in salt water. It’s no surprise to us when we see the crowds growing larger and larger each year and this, the 24th year, should be no exception!”

For more information, call the chamber at 371-5004.