Birch Bay ready to ring in 2014

Published on Wed, Dec 18, 2013
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Are you ready to take the plunge into the new year? The year is quickly drawing to a close and as usual, Birch Bay is ready to ring in 2014 with a slate full of festive events.

Ring of Fire and Hope

For 30 minutes on New Year’s Eve, Birch Bay will be a brighter place as the ninth annual Ring of Fire and Hope lights up the perimeter of the bay from Birch Bay Village to Point Whitehorn with roadside flares creating a striking scene on the waterfront.

“It’s one of those things you can’t really describe unless you’ve been,” said Birch Bay Chamber vice president Marty Stauffer. “It’s a great time to enjoy the peacefulness of Birch Bay and see its beauty in a new light.”

Realtor Mike Kent came up with the idea to light up the bay after a visit to the Great Lakes. “They do this for the Fourth of July, and we thought it would be great to bring it here.”

Kent said he hopes it will be a time for residents and visitors to reflect on the past year as they light their flares and set them to burn on the high tide line.

Each year, Kent and his wife Rose donate about 300 flares for the event, free of charge. They encourage participants to bring their own flares, though, because they are first come, first served. People are encouraged to buy their own spikeless, 30-minute flares from auto parts stores or from Pacific Building Center. “They’ve ordered extra to be prepared for the event,” Stauffer said.

Road flares will be available at the Visitor Information Center at 7900 Birch Bay Drive beginning at 5 p.m. while supplies last. (Limit two flares per family.)

Polar Bear Plunge

If you’re suiting up (or stripping down) to take the Polar Bear Plunge, an icy dip into Birch Bay on New Year’s Day, you’ll need to muster up your courage to hit the cold water by noon this year.

“There are people who have been doing this for 10, 20, 30 years,” Stauffer said. “They come up here to have a great time with their families and it becomes tradition. I think they’re crazy, but it’s fun to be a part of the crazy at the beginning of the year.”

Costumes are encouraged and clothing is required, Stauffer said.

Costume-clad participants (and their less festive friends) will break from the shoreline when the fire department ambulance’s sirens blare and rush into the surf to welcome the New Year. Awards will be given for best individual and group costumes (judging at 10:30 a.m.), the oldest participant, the most plunges and the person who has traveled the farthest. Prizes will not be awarded for length of time in the water. 

Birch Bay Chamber president Dave Hiller recommends that participants bring a towel and wear aqua socks or something similar to protect their feet. 

Bay Café will be serving coffee and cocoa before and after the Plunge and there will be live radio coverage by Praise 106.5. Registration, which is free, begins at 9 a.m. at the Visitor’s Information Center, located at 7900 Birch Bay Drive. “I Took the Plunge” T-shirts with the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge design can be purchased for $20. 

International Broom Hockey Tournament

Teams from both sides of the border are gearing up for the second annual International Broom Hockey Tournament that will take place on January 1 after the Polar Bear Plunge. Hosted by Northwest Park and Recreation District 2 (NWPRD2) and Birch Bay Waterslides, the exhibition match will feature a U.S./Canadian faceoff at 1:30 p.m. in the Birch Bay Waterslides parking lot.

Teams of six to 12 will take to the pavement in tennis shoes with brooms to bat around a small, lightweight ball for three 15-minute periods of good-natured play. “It’s a lot of fun,” said NWPRD2 office manager Heidi Holmes. “We have to defend our title.”

Holmes said the event is a throwback to her high school days. “We wanted to provide an activity for local people to attend, something fun to do after the Plunge,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to create community spirit and hopefully, as it grows over the years, we’ll have more teams and something else for people to enjoy on New Year’s Day.” 

Holmes said the event will be fun for spectators as well, with a beer and wine tent sponsored by Camp Horizon and pizza from Birch Bay Pizza available for purchase.

“It’s a backyard type of pickup game designed to bring some international spirit and fun to the bay,” Holmes said.

NWPRD2 is still recruiting players for their teams. To find out how to play, contact Holmes at 360/656-6416.

For more information about the New Year’s events, visit