The annual Sylvan Lake Polar Bear Dip is set for February 18 with registration now open to participants.
The yearly polar plunge, often referred to as a ‘bucket list’ item for many, sees participants raising funds for localnon-profits a month prior to their jump into the frozen abyss that is the lake mid-winter.
Last year’s event saw $12,718 raised in support of Central Alberta charities with the largest amount of $2,731being pledged to Sylvan Lake and Area Serenity Pet Shelter. Past years have seen over $4,000 raised for individualcharities. Other Sylvan Lake based initiatives supported by last year’s Polar Bear Dip included the Beacon HillPlayground, Sylvan Lake Community Partners’, the Sylvan Lake Municipal Library and Kidsport.
A number of regional initiatives also saw support such as the Central Alberta Woman’s Shelter and the RonaldMcDonald House of Central Alberta. Jumpers have the option to choose which local charity they’d like to fundraisefor and will receive a pledge package upon registration for the event. Each year the number of jumpers in thePolar Bear Dip continues to astound organizers, with the event being put on by the Town of Sylvan Lake.
Special Events Co-ordinator for the Town of Sylvan Lake, Michelle Houle, stated there is always a large turn out ofspectators for the plunge – however, it’s the number of jumpers who turn out in full costume that never ceases toamaze organizers.
“People go all out,” said Houle. “You’ll see some incredible costumes and the crowd always gets a good show.”
She added the more jumpers there are, the more fun the crowd seems to have. The annual event is held on thewest side of the pier directly on Sylvan Lake with parking available to participants and spectators on the west sideof the pier.
“It’s a great event raising money in support of many great organizations,” said Houle. She added the eventcoincides with the rest of the community’s annual Winterfest activities including a number of family fun activitieson the east side of the pier.
To ensure the jumpers are safe going in and coming out of the water the Sylvan Lake Fire Department ice rescuersare always on hand to help out. A captain on the fire department and an ice rescue trainer, David Spencer assistedthe jumpers in 2016 and said the fire department has been participating in the event for around 12 years now.The ice rescuers in the water are trained, in their appropriate gear and are properly secured to keep themselvessafe.
Spencer said it is great being able to help out with the dip every year. “Once you’re in a suit you can flounderaround in the water and it’s great,” he said. “That’s not an experience many can have.” He added the firedepartment volunteers get a first hand view of jumpers’ reactions to getting in the cold water.
“Jumping in the water initially is always a good thing, the guys really enjoy that,” Spencer said. “But being right inthere with the jumpers and seeing their expressions and then extreme panic to get out of there, it’s really quitefunny to be part of that.”
The Sylvan Lake Polar Bear Dip will take place on February 18 at 1 p.m. on the east side of the pier in Sylvan Lake.Those wishing to register for the Polar Bear Dip may do so anytime prior to the event with registration formsavailable both online at www.sylvanlake.ca or directly at the Recreation & Culture office located at 4926 50Avenue, Sylvan Lake. For more information contact the Recreation Office by phoning 403 887 2199.