Before New Year’s Plunge, Polar Bear Follows His Nose
by Allan Appel | Dec 31, 2013 1:20 pm
Posted to: Environment, Parks
In town for the holiday, a polar bear who calls himself “Al Nonymous” said he looked forward to devouring a New Haven pizza pie, or two or three, or four—or something other than fish.
The chatty polar bear dropped by City Hall the other day not just looking for victuals, but to pitch the 14th annual Jan. 1 Polar Plunge at Lighthouse Point Park.
The event, a fundraiser for Elm City Parks Conservancy, starts at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Day. It costs $10 to eat brunch at the Carousel and $20 to check your insurance, sign a waiver, and do the crazy deed.
Don’t worry. Big Al will be there to cheer as you perhaps don a ridiculous costume and plunge screaming into our icy harbor.
While he pitched the plunge, calling special attention to the free tours of the great lighthouse will also be offered, Al agreed to answer a few questions ranging from global warming to his take on New Haven seafood.
Independent: I don’t want to start off on a bad foot, so to speak, but you are about an hour late!
Al: Sorry about that. Polar bears don’t wear watches. We follow our nose.
Independent: You’re a long way from home. Specifically how did you end up at City Hall today?
Al: They found me down at Long Wharf by the hot dog carts. They wouldn’t feed me there. I hitched a ride with this lady [Elm City Parks Conservancy President Marge Ottenbreit, pictured]. She said if I carried this sign, she’d give me lunch.
Independent: After you finish working, what kind of lunch are looking forward to in New Haven, which I take is new to you?
Al: I’m looking for something other than fish. Maybe pizza at Brazis. I’ll check out the Dumpster first.
Independent: In general what do you think of New Haven?
Al: I love it! Best Dumpsters on the East Coast.
Independent: As a bear, what do you think of the current debate on gun rights?
Al: I’m for gun rights. I don’t need one [a gun] because I’ve got teeth and claws.
Independent: Your habitat is getting smaller and smaller. In light of that, what do you think about global warming?
Al: I could always stand a few degrees colder.
Independent: Am I taking you too far afield with my questions? After all, you’re a polar bear.
Al: I didn’t realize this was going to be a speaking engagement. We’re going to have to add to that lunch. Maybe a cocktail.
Independent: Well, tell me about the plunge this year. Anything new? How much money do you hope to raise?
For these questions the bear deferred to Marge Ottenbreit. She noted that last year, damage to the Lighthouse carousel building caused by Super Storm Sandy caused organizers to cancel the festival. “Still 60 people showed up” and plunged, she said This year, in addition to the usual brunch and hot tubs for the plungers, the event will includea crafts table for kids and a raffle and the sale of conservancy hoodies and footies. She said she expects about 150 plungers and their supporters to come out, and hopes the event will raise between $4,000 and $6,000.
The bear is also new, the mascot of an event and an organization representing all 103 municipal parks, including tiny pocket parks, across the city. Of those, 21 parks have “friends groups” of supporters under the general umbrella of the conservancy
The conversation with Al resumed.
Independent: Before we conclude, anything you want to add, Al?
Al: Yes. I’m trying to encourage people to take the free tour of the lighthouse. Groups of five going up for five or seven minutes. It’s [the view] breathtaking.
Independent: Thank you very much. Enjoy lunch.
For more information or to register as an individual or team in advance, check the Elm City Parks Conservancy Facebook page or call (203) 946-2459
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Since I moved to New Haven 4+ years ago, this will be the 5th time I go for an icy dip on New Year’s Day at Lighthouse Point. Indeed, I was one of the brave 60 who went last year. Last year was so cold, and the carousel and brunch and hot tub(s) were missed!
Even if you are not going to brave the arctic blast and its fierce winds and frigid saltwater temps, this IS a fun event and great way to ring in the New Year.
Consider the ritual of plunging into the icy water on the first day of a new year. Water, through the history of mankind, has been and still is the greatest symbol for cleansing, and purity. I love the symbolic aspect of “taking the plunge!”
Most people spend less than 60 seconds total in the water, myself included. A quick run out to waist high water, a courageous plunge underwater, to submerge the entire body and head, and then a quick run back onto solid ground to (hopefully) someone with a couple thick towels, hoodies, sweats, etc!
Taking an icy plunge is NOT about physical capabilities. Every year I am amazed at the number of young people, and older folks! I have “plunged” with groups which contain children which must have been no older than 7 or 8, and also people which must have been 60 years old and older!
Taking the cold dip is a test of WILLPOWER. Of Mental Fortitude. I always say to everyone, whilst waiting on the beach, before running into the freezing Sound, “If we can do this- run out into the freezing water on a freezing cold day on the first day of this year….there is NOTHING we can’t do!”
And, it really is true! We can do whatever we put our hearts and minds to work at.
So, join us 1/1/2014 at 11 a.m., and bring a camera. Even if you do not swim, come bundled up and cheer on the brave souls. Actually, those who swim are not any braver than those who do not take the plunge. The only thing that separates the two groups is:
One group believes they can do it…
Happy New Year to you!