By Steve Guntli
The Polar Bear Plunge and the Ring of Fire and Hope are returning to Birch Bay this New Years. The festivals will give residents the chance to celebrate the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.
Mike Kent of Windermere Real Estate has donated a large number of flares. The flares will be available at the Birch Bay Visitor’s Center on a first-come, first-served basis.
The chamber expects the available supply of flares to go quickly; unsuccessful participants should pick up a supply from Pacific Building Center/True Value at 2677 Bell Road.
The flares should be “spikeless,” meaning they should not have mounting spikes on the bottom that could potentially hurt small children. The flares should be able to burn for 15 to 30 minutes.
More than 300 people took the plunge last year. Sarah Pinkey of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce is expecting more than 500 to attend this year, based on feedback she’s been receiving from the community.
The county is opening the site of the future beach park at 7954 Birch Bay Drive to provide overflow parking and set up changing tents. Volunteers will set up bonfires and hot cocoa stands along the length of the beach to warm participants after the plunge.
“People are coming out and doing this with us; we figure the least we can do is warm them up afterward,” said Pinkey.
The chamber will also be holding a costume contest. Several prizes, donated by local businesses, will be awarded based on best individual costume and best group costume.
The chamber stresses that the plunge is not an endurance contest, and there are no awards given for length of time in the cold water.
Registration for the Polar Bear Plunge is free, and starts at 9 a.m. near the Birch Bay Visitor Information Center. Participants can register in advance at birchbaychamber.com.
After warming up, visitors can head over to the parking lot of the Birch Bay Waterslides to witness the third annual International Broom Hockey tournament.
Players can join either Team USA or Team Canada. Teams of six to 12 people will play in three 15-minute periods, using brooms to sweep a ball into the goal.
To sign up to play on a broom hockey team, contact Heidi Holmes at the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 at 360/656-6416.
For more information on these events, visit birchbaychamber.com.