Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Sam Simon said the Polar Bear Club of Scioto County will be “freezin’ for a reason” again this year on Jan. 1, as divers celebrate New Years Day with a dip in the Ohio River to raise money for local charities.
The Polar Bear Plunge tradition started only casually 12 years ago when Simon and a couple of his friends playfully jumped into the Ohio River next to his home near Sciotoville. After that, it became a tradition and grew even larger when they moved their activity to Portsmouth in 2004. About 80 people took part in the dive last year.
Participants of the 2013 plunge will begin gathering at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, at the Blockhouse bar on Lawson Street in Portsmouth. There will be lots of fun and festivities until the group starts out the door at about 11:30 a.m. to begin their caravan parade to the river carried by the American Legion Post 23 and the 40/8.
When the clock hits noon, the 40/8 fire their canon signalling every warm body into the icy Ohio River.
But remember: safety first! Simon offers a couple of tips to daring divers. Jumpers are strongly advised to wear shoes into the water, he said, because of dangerous debris that might be on the river bank. Simon also recommends participants tread carefully into the water, and not dive head first.
“You never know if there will be a submerged log, or an old Volkswagen or something down in that Ohio River. Go carefully,” he advised.
Simon said he expects about 80 people to join the plunge this year, including Don Andre and a group of co-workers from Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Divers are encouraged to use the plunge as a fundraising opportunity for their favorite charitable cause, taking donations or pledges to jump into the water. Andre and his group are raising money for Hospice care, and Simon is raising money for Scioto County veterans.
“I like going for Jim Saddler’s party that he has (with American Legion Post 23) for the nursing home veterans of Scioto County. They get out twice a year for a party, once for a Christmas party at Post 23 and once for a summer party down at the Shawnee Boat Club. You remember what it was like when we were kids going on a field trip? For these seniors, it’s their big day and they really look forward to that,” Simon said.
He said Saddler and American Legion Post 23 has always helped out the Portsmouth Polar Bear Club.
After their icy plunge, participants are invited back the Blockhouse, where the celebration continues with more food specials and celebration. Simon used to own the Blockhouse bar in Portsmouth, but sold it this year to Jim Pack. Pack joins the plunge this year, for what Simon jokingly called a “Polar Bear Baptism” in the Ohio River.
According to the National Weather Service on Wednesday, the forecast for Jan. 1 is only partly sunny with a chilling high of just 29 degrees. Simon said low temperatures and low water makes for a good plunge.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com.