LEWISBURG — Wearing a one-piece bathing suit, socks and Crocs, Megan Nogle shivered in a beach towel as she stood in a snowbank for 10 minutes, waiting to jump into Susquehanna River Saturday afternoon as part of the annual Polar Bear Plunge.
The 11-year-old prepared for the event by asking her mother to keep the heat off in the car on the drive from their Mifflinburg home to Lewisburg.
“I’m here for moral support,” said Nogle’s mother, Kim Zimmerman.
Hundreds of people wrapped up in coats, scarves, hats and mittens braved the nearly freezing temperatures to watch more than 200 scantily clad men, women and children take a dip in the West Branch of the river at St. George Street landing in Lewisburg.
The Polar Bear Plunge was among several events held during the eighth annual Ice Festival Friday through today.
Bucknell University chemistry professor Molly McGuire rushed into the river and submerged herself.
“If you’re in that far, you might as well finish it,” she said, water dripping from her hair down her face.
It’s the sixth time she’s participated in the polar plunge, which she calls “an adrenaline rush. It’s the one crazy thing I do each year.”
Brooks Thompson, 17, of Lewisburg, is also a repeat participant.
“I’ve done it five times,” he said, describing the sensation of jumping into the cold river in the dead of winter as painful. “It feels like needles stabbing you over and over.”
So why do it?
“I love the atmosphere,” he said, referring to the wacky costumes some polar plungers don for the brief foray into the water.
This year, two men showed up in matching bright pink Speedos, two young girlfriends topped their outfits with pink feathers and tiaras and a middle-aged man sported a grass skirt and coconuts.
Union County Emergency Squad volunteers, wearing diving suits, moved large chunks of ice floating near the bank out of the way to protect the waders.
Running out of the river with her two friends, one young girl screamed, “I can’t feel my legs.”
The wide smile on her face seemed to say it didn’t matter.