It’s the first weekend in February, which means two things for all of us in coastal Delaware. First, it’s Super Bowl Weekend, with all of the pageantry, parties and fun times that go along with the “big game.”
But for thousands of Delaware residents, there is perhaps an even bigger event that takes place in early February each and every year. It’s one that’s looked forward to and planned for. One that’s become a tradition unlike any other at the Delaware beaches.
Yes, it’s time for the annual Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware, and 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the popular local event. Now Special Olympics’ biggest annual statewide fundraiser, thousands of “Bears” descend on Delaware’s most well-known beach resort each February to take a running, and some would say intellectually challenged, leap into the frigid waters of the Atlantic.
To some, it sounds like torture and truly is. But to those who have been taking “The Plunge” for decades, it’s an event that’s marked on the calendar every year.
Some come with friends. Some come with co-workers or colleagues. Some even make it a good-natured competition amongst different groups within the same town or company.
But, the most important things are 1) everyone is having a good time and 2) they are raising money for a worthwhile First State cause.
Since 1991, the February plunge has benefitted the year-round programs of Special Olympics Delaware, raising more than $8 million in the process. The event has become so popular that it's spurned an entire weekend full of events and created a huge financial boon to coastal Delaware in the process.
If you’re up for a little wintertime fun this weekend, here are a few of the highlights for “Polar Bear Plunge Weekend.”
Polar Bear Plunge. Plunge time is Sunday at 1 p.m. sharp, but check in begins three hours prior at the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. Visit www.plungede.org for a checklist of things to bring, as well as more information on the weekend’s main event.
5K Run to the Plunge. The run starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday and costs $20.
Fire & Ice Festival. These family fun activities will take place at the Rehoboth Beach Fire Hall on Saturday and include children’s games, a photo booth and the “Polar Ice Cream Throwdown.”
Chili Contest. From 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at 12 participating restaurants in Rehoboth. Prizes given in categories including “Best Hot Chili,” “Most Unique Chili” and “Best Vegetarian Chili.”
Ice Sculpting Contest. Always a fan favorite, these unique creations will come to life on Rehoboth Avenue beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Judging will be held at 12:30 p.m.
To wrap this all up – it may be the dead of winter, but don’t let that stop you from getting out and enjoying a coastal Delaware festival unlike any other. Yes, it may be cold. Yes, it may be February. But it’s a good time, with good people and it’s for a good cause.
And if you feel like taking a dip in near freezing water, all the better!
Have a great weekend everyone!