The Luau Lunatics from Brighton added colour and fun to the Polar Bear Winter Festival river plunge on Saturday.

Article & Images By Sue Dickens (Trent Hills Now reporter)

Campbellford – The waterfront at Lions Beach Park was lined with spectators who showed up to cheer on the close to 50 plungers who participated in the 27th Polar Bear Winter Festival, Saturday, January 27.

Organized by The Auxiliary to the Campbellford Memorial Hospital as a major fundraiser, the Polar Bear Winter Festival, with polar bears on site collecting donations, has always been a popular fun event attracting spectators from throughout the region.

Varouj Eskedjian, CEO of Campbellford Memorial Hospital, definitely found the plunge to be “invigorating.”

Trent Hills’ firefighters outfitted in rescue gear with safety lines in town went into the Trent River to keep plungers safe. They were kept busy pushing away sheets of ice which were being carried by the fast current to the shoreline.

Balmy 6 degree Celsius weather accompanied by 22 km/h southwest winds made it a relatively comfortable day for spectators but the icy water of the Trent River was still frigid making for a quick in and out by participants.

Firefighters spread sand onto the watery shelf of ice that led from the banks of the beach to the water so plungers wouldn’t slip.

Today was quite a contrast from the -22 degrees Celsius temperatures in 2015 which made for a very quick dip by plungers.

Posing for photos beforehand, teams such as the Luau Lunatics from Brighton and a large group from the Campbellford Memorial Hospital, along with the Campbellford Rebels Hockey Team, Team Burnbrae Gardens, UPI Campbellford, and the Station Restaurant in Havelock cheered and waved as they took their turn prepping. The Luau Lunatics (who have been known to show off at the gym) did a few aerobics together, much to the delight of the spectators.

Individuals braved the plunge too including Karl Eichner of Trent River who accepted a challenge by Emcee Earl McLean, a veteran plunger, to dive into the icy water a second time for a $20 donation.  “It’s always worse the second time,” said Earl as he cheered Karl on using the loudspeaker system.

Margaret McDonald of Hastings, who was also a single plunger told everyone, “I’m doing this for my neighbour William who is 93 years young.” William was there to cheer her on.

As well Mike Szerenyi and Bill Menzies took the plunge.

Plunging in memory of their grandfather, Dr. Tom Hackett, a well known and respected physician, the duo of Dana and Cory took up the challenge once again.

A warming bus on site gave plungers a place to escape to after.

Liz Mathewson, organizer of the plunge for the first time this year, told Trent Hills Now, “Today is very invigorating and the weather is on our side. The enthusiasm of so many people from the community is just so wonderful.”

Firefighters from the Trent Hills Fire Department kept everyone safe at the Polar Bear Winter Festival, especially the plungers.

She added, “We made close to $5,000 last year and if we can get close to that I will be happy.” No tally of funds was available at press time.

A hearty lunch followed at St. John’s United Church, something of a tradition for this popular fundraiser.