Take the plunge

For some, a cold, wintry day means staying inside near a warm fire.

But to others, it means grabbing a towel and swimsuit and jumping into a freezing-cold body of water.

Canadians have been making that crazy leap into the icy depths as part of a longtime tradition for celebrating the New Year. The tradition spread to the United States when the first Polar Bear Plunge Club, or the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, was started in 1903 in Coney Island, N.Y. To this day, thousands of these human polar bears line up along the boardwalk and plunge into the freezing ocean. The bravest — or the most insane, depending on how you look at it — plunge every Sunday in November through April.

Many Ashlanders have taken this tradition to heart, braving the New Year with a jump into the Ashland Creek swimming reservoir in upper Lithia Park while donned in everything from ridiculous or beautiful costumes to a speedo.

If you missed this bone-chilling plunge into the New Year, but still want to see how shockingly cold you can get, you're in luck: Medford is holding its own annual Polar Plunge on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the swimming pool near Jackson Elementary School. It's one of many Polar Bear Plunges throughout Oregon to raise money for the Special Olympics. Last year, all of Oregon raised $464,000.

Check-in is from 8:30 to 10:45 a.m. at the Jackson Aquatic Center, 815 Summit Ave. A Costume Contest is planned at 10:30 a.m., followed by Opening Ceremonies and the Polar Plunge at 11 a.m.

Participants can preregister online at www.plungeoregon.com and turn in their donations and pick up their towel at the pre-event check-in from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at the North Fred Meyer.

Amelia Covert Zeve is an Ashland High School student and freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her via email at ameliacovertzeve@gmail.com.

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