Polar Bear Plunge

William Medeiros, Contributing Writer

Around 200 people gathered in Lewisburg to plunge into frigid water last week. The 18th annual Polar Bear Plunge was hosted on Feb. 5 with temperatures just under freezing.

Beginning in Downtown Lewisburg, the event attracted both University students and locals to the town. The admittance fee was $15 and benefited the organization Lewisburg Neighborhoods—whose mission is to foster the economic and cultural growth of the downtown area.

The Polar Bear plunge is part of the larger ‘Lewisburg Ice Festival,’ which showcases ice sculptures, food kiosks, Chocolate Lover’s Festival, child-friendly games and, of course, the popular Polar Bear Plunge.

The festival started in 2004 as an effort to engage the community in a weekend of fun activities and to promote downtown Lewisburg.

The annual fundraiser normally has participants running into the Susquehanna River itself, near St. George Street. However, due to massive ice formations in the river, firefighter personnel from the William Cameron Engine Company came up with an alternative solution. They decided that filling a large makeshift plastic tarp with frigid water for small groups of attendees to plunge into would get the job done.

This was to ensure the safety of the participants, according to Debra Sulai, a Lewisburg Neighborhood board member.

Many student groups on campus encouraged their members to partake and support the community by attending the event. For example, the intramural rugby team has made participating in the Polar Bear Plunge a tradition, running in just their uniform shorts from Downtown to the event. Some members of the team even decided to go barefoot.

“[My favorite part] was being able to attend such an exhilarating event with my teammates,” Dylan Matase ’24 said. “The water was very chilly, and after climbing out, you really felt the cold, but it was for a good cause and I was happy to be a part of it. Plus I got a cool hat.”

The event is often considered as a “rite of passage” by University students, particularly that of the University’s fraternities and sororities. 

Polar Bear Plunge attendees could be seen in a variety of outfits. Costumes such as prisoners with orange jumpsuits, cowboy getups, bathing suits or just shorts were just some of the outfits seen.

Damien Mahanama ’24 described the event as “very cool.”  

“It was a great day, a cold one, but a great day. I was happy to support a local charity while having fun with my teammates,” Mahanama said.

The annual Polar Bear Plunge continues to be a staple event for the community of Lewisburg and the University.

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