Ring in the New Year in Birch Bay

Polar Bear Plunge 2017. Photo by Peter Mitchell.

By Stefanie Donahue

Two of Birch Bay’s biggest annual events will start off the New Year with a bang.

New Year’s Eve celebrants can light up the shoreline during the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Ring of Fire and Hope event at 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 31. During the event, participants line the shores of Birch Bay and light hundreds of orange road flares to symbolize peace and hope for the coming year.

Birch Bay chamber director Mike Kent has donated 600 flares, which will be available for pick-up at 5:30 p.m. the day of the event at the Birch Bay Visitor’s Center, 7900 Birch Bay Drive. Flares are also available for purchase at the Pacific Building Center, 2677 Bell Road. “It makes such a nice show,” said fellow Birch Bay chamber representative Wayne Diaz.

The following day, Diaz expects the crowd to top last year’s gathering of 5,000 people who came out for the chamber’s annual Polar Bear Plunge, a local tradition that started in Birch Bay as a dare in 1982.

Hosted across the globe on New Year’s Day, typically to raise money for charity, Polar Bear Plunges challenge participants to dash into open water, wearing a swimsuit or costume. In Birch Bay, participants will launch into the bay’s icy water at noon at 7900 Birch Bay Drive.

There’s no cost to take the plunge, but registration is encouraged and can be completed in-person by 10 a.m. the day of the event or online at bit.ly/2kfZv5K.

The chamber plans to hand out thousands of certificates and refreshments to each participant. Food vendors Trailer Hash and Something Cheesy will be on the scene to sell food and drinks throughout the day. Commemorative shirts and sweatshirts will also be for sale.

At 11:30 a.m., the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce will host a costume contest for the following categories: best child costume (for ages 12 and below), most unique costume, best individual costume, best group costume and best dressed pet. The top three winners in all categories will receive Birch Bay-themed medallions and are eligible to win tickets to Birch Bay Waterslides and Miniature World, Diaz said.

To learn more about events hosted by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, visit birchbaychamber.com.

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