Polar Plunge makes splash in Lewisburg


Maximus Bean, News Co-Editor

Students and Lewisburg residents alike gathered at St. George Street Landing to submerge themselves into the icy cold Susquehanna on Feb. 4.

The Polar Plunge is an enduring annual tradition serving as the climax and capstone to The Heart of Lewisburg Ice Festival. The festival, which began in 2004 to support local businesses, kicked off on Friday with ice sculptures of film cameras, crosses and penguins popping up in front of the various storefronts.

There was also a small festival held in Hufnagle park, where local organizations such as the Children’s Museum and River Valley Nature School had tents to advertise to the many families present to look at the newly made ice sculptures which had been made that morning.

The streets were busy, and alongside the influx of families present, there were salesmen who had erected tents in order to sell all sorts of novelties. A few stands sold hot chocolate, while others sold products like kettle corn and early Valentine’s Day gifts. 

At 2 p.m., The Polar Bear Plunge parade began. A great mass of people proceeded from the corner of Market and Front Streets over to the river’s entrance. Among the participants of the parade were two mascots, a blue-and yellow-colored bird, and a strange-looking donkey. The donkey had the words “DOWN WINTER BLOWS FREE EASTER” written on the sides. The large bluebird float represented the Bluebird Atelier, a creative learning studio that offers art classes at 217 Market Street. Ellison Strosser, an artist and teacher at Bluebird, constructed the float.

“It’s a fantastic event, a challenge, and a great way to get out of our comfort zone,” Morgan Thomas ’23 said. “It’s fun to share this experience with the rest of Central PA as well as other BU students.”

Another person in the parade was by far the most memorable for many. A man in a fur coat, coonskin cap, striped-and-polka-dot pants and a painted mustache on his face armed with a squeeze horn, cowbell and a kazoo led the donkey down the road, shouting and playing his instruments as he did so. 

This strangely-dressed man was Ben Steeler, a clown who was asked by the Plunge’s Organizer, Taylor Lightman, to help participate in the plunge. He also talked about the donkey, saying that “it’s the Midwinter Donkey, something for people to celebrate.”

It was meant as a symbol to get people through the slog of the winter season. The parade, Steeler said, was meant to grow over the years, and he was one of the people Lightman enlisted to aid in that endeavor..

Another standout at the plunge was Kendy Alvarez, the mayor of Lewisburg. She wore a leopard-print bodysuit and handled a golden toilet plunger.

“[The Polar Plunge] is a wonderful fundraiser, and a great opportunity for people to be engaged downtown,” Alvarez said. 

At the time of the plunge, Ice chunks were still visible and moving from the river’s entrance. The temperature was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so there was no question of the “polar” hidden in the name of the event.

Heating lamps dotted the streets as the crowd prepared for their go-ahead. Some had already begun undressing, and stood in the cold with nothing but a pair of shorts. Finally, at 2:30 the first wave went. Some had swimsuits on, while others like the rugby team wore their uniforms as they jumped in. Cheers erupted from the crowds as the participants ran in. 

When asked about his experience with the plunge, Ryaan Hatoum ’23 said that at first it was “cold and nippy, but your body adjusts, and your metabolism goes up.”

Some waded in, while others dove. but by the end of the event nearly a half-hour later, the entire group was shivering. 

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