The 16th annual Polar Plunge is beginning to take shape.
Event organizer and founder Sam Simon said he would have never thought that what started out as three people jumping into the Ohio River on New Year’s Day would become this popular.
“The very first year we had to dive over some slush and it was at my house with a few members of the Sciotoville Boat Club,” Simon said. “The next year there were seven of us from the boat club. The next year was 13 people and a dog and it’s seemed to double plus one, every year since.”
He said with steady growth, the event was moved to the Court Street Landing in Portsmouth in 2004.
“From then on it’s just caught fire (with people taking the plunge). It’s turned into quite the event,” Simon said.
He said in recent years participants have been asked to raise funds for a charity.
“We started giving the money to local charities, which was pretty cool and helped to make the event what it is,” Simon said.
Simon said participants can donate raised funds to a charity of their choice.
“As normal if anybody wants to raise money for a favorite charity, they are more than welcome to,” Simon said. “Myself, I like the rest home veterans. There’s two parties held for them every year, they have a Christmas Party and they have a nice party for them in the summer. The money people donate to us, we’ll give to the American Legion in Jim Saddlers memory.”
Jim Saddler was a local advocate for area veterans and worked tirelessly to make certain the two parties occurred. Saddler passed away earlier this year, others are keeping that same spirit alive with the continuance of the parties.
Simon said Saddler was a longtime supporter of the polar bear plunge.
“He (Saddler) will be sadly missed, but we’re going to go ahead and go through with it,” Simon said.
Simon said on New Year’s Day some participants will gather at The Block House, 1107 Lawson Street in Portsmouth starting around 9:30 a.m. Though people can start where ever they like.
From the Block House participants will caravan to the Court Street Landing in anticipation of a Noon plunge.
Simon said each year is different but there is a core group of people that’s made the plunge every year.
“We’ve had a lot of people there every year; we call them the core jumpers. We also have a lot of one and done’s (people doing the plunge once and not comeback),” Simon said.
Simon said spectators are also welcomed at the event.
“There’s (typically) four times the spectators as there are to participants. When you get through that flood wall, it looks like you’re going into River Days,” Simon said.
He said those that do not want to meet at the Block House can meet the group at the river prior to the jump.
Simon said after the plunge, the Block House will be showing The Ohio State University Football game.
For more information about the plunge find them on Facebook, under Polar Bear Plunge Portsmouth, OH.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT