Hey Mr. President: New Haven’s “Polar Bears” Aren’t Extinct

by Melinda Tuhus | January 2, 2007 8:29 AM | | Comments (2)

people%20in%20hot%20tub.JPGOne of the advantages of global warming was an almost-cozy leap into Long Island Sound on New Year’s Day, as part of the sixth annual “Polar Bear” Plunge for Parks. Still, most plungers took advantage of a warmer post-plunge dip in a hot tub “” just one of the perks for those raising money for New Haveners’ favorite green spaces.

chris%20with%20bandana.JPGChris Ozyck (pictured), who started it all six years ago with a dozen fellow polar bears, said this year was the most successful yet, in terms of the number of plungers (almost 100) and the amount of money raised ($13,000). Plungers must raise at least $30, to cover the cost of hot tub rentals, towels, bandanas, a warming tent (which wasn’t needed this year), and an extravagant brunch, but most raise much more. Half the money goes to the Elm City Parks Conservancy and the rest goes for programs and sprucing up individual parks.

The team that brings in the most money gets to keep it all for their favorite park. This year the competition was intense between supporters of Quinnipiac River Park and Edgewood Park. Friends of Edgewood Park president Sharon Lovett-Graff organized 15 neighbors into a team with a Gilligan’s Island theme. She’d like the money they raised to support a weekly playgroup, a new playground, and new benches around the duck pond. Her daughter, Shoshana, 11, said she was taking her first plunge because, “I wanted to see what the experience was like.” She said she expected it to be “cold, really cold” and confirmed that expectation after the plunge. In photos, mom and daughter get ready to take the plunge, doffing their street clothes and donning robes over their bathing suits.



people%20in%20water.JPGThe water may have seemed cold, but it was in fact quite warm for this time of year “” 48 degrees, with an air temperature around 50 degrees with light rain falling. The rain may have kept some spectators away, but it didn’t matter to the plungers, who were going to get very wet anyway.

11-year-old Chloe Andree of Westville said she was making her first plunge “for charity, because you donate money every time you jump in, because I love Edgewood Park and we go there all the time.”

Ozyck has even bigger plans for the future. Unlike many other cities, New Haven hasn’t been able to maintain a successful First Night celebration, where throngs of people come out to celebrate New Year’s Eve by attending a raft of cultural events. So Ozyck wants to expand the Plunge for Parks into a First Day Celebration. Click here to listen to his enthusiasm.

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Posted by: Vanessa Poholek | January 2, 2007 1:17 PM

This is my 2nd year plunging, and I hope to keep up this tradition for many years to come. It's fun, freezing, and all for the New Haven parks. My 6-year-old daughter says she wants to go in next year. I'd be so proud if she did!

Posted by: Chris | January 2, 2007 8:46 PM

Yes, this was a great year for the event despite the weather. This second annual first day and sixth annual polar plunge was only succesful due to the support of an all volunteer crew from Elm City Parks Conservancy, and friends pitching in. Community in action. My hats off (now) to the terrific teams, solo, and renegade plungers.
Q-town rocked the minnow, but edgewood stole the show. Thanks- C

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