Photos: Polar Bear Plunge makes 2017 splash.
Brave souls celebrate 2017 with a chilly splash in 9th annual Polar Bear Swim
About 100 people welcomed 2017 with a splash Sunday morning as they plunged into the chilly Schuylkill River during the ninth annual Polar Bear Swim at Riverfront Park.
Sunny skies and a relatively warm 46-degree day made life a little easier on the brave participants. Though for many, it was the river’s thick silt, not the brisk water temperature, that was the real challenge.
“It was really mucky and muddy,” said Brooke Martin of Pottstown, a three-time plunger who dressed in a blue tutu to celebrate the occasion. “It was really deep. You always think they’re being overly cautious but you get in there and it was really hard to move.”
“The silt went right up to your knees automatically,” said first-timer Brendon O’Hagan of Philadelphia, who was shirtless and wore a large Spartan hat as he walked in up to his waist. “It was good. Not as cold. Beautiful day.”
Divers from the Telford Diving and Rescue Unit and Friendship Dive-Rescue Unit stood in the 49-degree water on standby to make sure folks were safe, though participants were in and out within a few minutes.
Kelly Teufel and Becca Holley of Royersford came to the event together, but only one actually went in.
“It was my first time ever doing one,” Teufel said. “I would do it again. It was actually really fun.”
Holley, however, described the scene a bit differently.
“It looked dirty,” she said. “They’re crazy. They’re not getting in my car like that.”
After they finished the dip, plungers stood in front of a massive bonfire (under the watchful eye of the Phillies Fire Company) and munched on hot dogs and sauerkraut. The New Year’s Day tradition has become a staple for Pottstown. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Lemhart said while this is the ninth official year for the event, its roots date back further.
Over time the borough built the larger New Year’s Day celebration and bonfire around the annual plunge and it continues to garner a crowd each year. Lemhart said the event remains popular because of how different it is from other similar festivities.
“I think it’s bragging rights first of all,” he said. “It’s unique in that most polar bear plunges are on
the coast. They’re in the ocean. We’re one of the places doing it in landlocked Pennsylvania. We have the Schuylkill connection. Pottstown is a Schuylkill River Trail town. We identify as a river town. So this is a way to engage with it. I think people pick up on that.”
Martin had a similar assessment.
“It’s a great way to ring in the new year,” she said. “My community and everybody comes out. It’s kind of a feel-good, becrazy sort of thing.”
Participants in the ninth annual Pottstown Polar Bear Swim wade into the Schuylkill River at Riverfront Park to celebrate the New Year Sunday.
While some people decided to wade into the Schuylkill River to celebrate the ninth annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim at Riverfront Park, others decided to dive right in.
Polar bear plungers complained the thick silt in the Schuylkill River made it difficult to jump in at Riverfront Park during the annual New Year’s Day celebration in Pottstown Sunday.