Photos: Po­lar Bear Plunge makes 2017 splash.

Brave souls cel­e­brate 2017 with a chilly splash in 9th an­nual Po­lar Bear Swim

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

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.”

TOM KELLY III — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Par­tic­i­pants in the ninth an­nual Pottstown Po­lar Bear Swim wade into the Schuylkill River at River­front Park to cel­e­brate the New Year Sun­day.

TOM KELLY III — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

TOM KELLY III — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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