The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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February 1, 2014

190 shiver in river

State rep scampers into 38-degree water after dare

ALLENWOOD — LEWISBURG — Many of the 190 people lined up Saturday afternoon facing the Susquehanna River looked as if they were dressed to go to the beach rather than dive into the chilly water.

At the annual Polar Bear Plunge, back this year after last year’s event was cancelled because of high water, most plungers were decked out in bathing suits, some in bikinis or speedos, to make their way into the 38-degree water off the St. George Street ramp.

There were also some portraying more colorful characters, including Abraham Lincoln, Lady Liberty, the warriors of the movie “Braveheart” and the Easter bunny.

In groups of about 30, the plungers ran straight into a lane of water created by emergency personnel, who cut through 6 inches of river ice to make the pathway. About 400 people crowded the boat ramp to watch the spectacle.

“It’s a really fun event,” said Linda Sterling, director of the Heart of Lewisburg Ice Festival and executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership.

The plunge benefits the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership and many of the participants were happy to pay between $15 and $20 to take a frigid dip in the Susquehanna.

“I am freezing, but for a good reason,” said Brent Winder, of Lewisburg, who was participating for the second time.

When first entering the river, the feet are the first thing to feel the impact, said Jimmy Snow, who recently moved to Lewisburg from South Carolina and remembers watching people “up North” do polar plunges and thinking that he wanted to try it.

“Your feet feel like you’re on pins and needles,” he said.

The water, however, doesn’t feel as cold as one would expect, Snow said. But that could be because “everything goes numb,” he said.

For those who dunked their head underwater, the sensation is “disorienting,” Snow said.

“It’s a shock-and-a-half,” he said. “It’s very staggering to try to stand back up.”

But, Snow said, it’s all worth it.

“I’d do it again,” he said.

State Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, Kreamer, also took the plunge, agreeing that the water didn’t feel as cold as he expected it would.

“It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated,” he said.

Keller said he was challenged by a family friend to participate in the plunge and was happy to participate in an event that supports the community.

“It raises money for a good cause,” he said.

Sterling said the plunge raised about $1,500 to go toward the annual ice festival’s expenses.

“That,” she said, “will buy a lot of ice,”

 

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