A frozen lake and frigid temperatures can only mean one thing for charitable Sylvan Lakers — time to take the plunge in the Town’s annual Polar Bear Dip.
The event is returning Feb. 14, a year after sketchy ice on the lake forced it to be held in a dunk tank format for the first time. It was, however, no less enjoyable, according to Town special events and program co-ordinator Michelle Morrison, who assures it will be a hit once again this year.
“The most important thing to us is (making sure) the participants are safe and running a safe event, but I can guarantee the dunk tanks were pretty much just as cold — I was shovelling snow into them the entire morning to make sure they were ice cold to give the dippers the same experience,” she said.
Plans this year are for the dip to return to its original format, which sees participants plunge into a hole in the lake on the west side of the pier.
Though enjoyable to some, participants don’t do it simply for fun; they each seek sponsors and collect donations in support of a local organization or charity of their choice.
Last year’s event raised close to $21,000 in total. Sylvan Lake and Area Community Partners Association, the Central Alberta Emergency Women’s Shelter, the Sylvan Lake Library and Sylvan Lake and Area Serenity Pet Shelter were among the beneficiaries.
Those who do take the plunge are among some of the most spirited individuals in town, Morrison feels.
“I would say that they are extremely brave,” she said. “A lot of times, we get new people, and a lot of times there are a lot of repeat people. There are some that have been doing it for years, and we get all ages. It’s insane.”
Aside from a $10 registration fee paid to the Town, 100 per cent of proceeds raised through the dip support the participants’ charities of choice.
Dippers must be 18 years of age or older.
Only 50 spaces are available; for that reason, and to allow for plenty of time for fundraising, Morrison is encouraging potential participants to register as soon as possible. Registrations may be completed at the Sylvan Lake Aquatic Centre. More information is available by calling Morrison at 403-887-2199.
The dip is just one of many events planned as part of Sylvan Lake WinterFest, which runs Feb. 13 to 15.