Especially Cold Day Does Not Deter ‘Plungers’

Long-time Kiwanis member Cindy McCarty and yearly jumper Chrissy McMahon are applauded (top) as the first ‘plungers’ at this year’s Sullivan County Kiwanis Winterfest, which was held at Camp Brulé on Feb. 15. Sledding (below) was another popular activity enjoyed by participants.

Photo and story by Rick Hiduk

(Exclusiv to readers)

Seventeen people paraded from the Main Hall at Camp Brule near Forksville on Saturday to snow- and ice-covered Elk Lake for the annual Polar Bear Plunge that is part of the Sullivan County Kiwanis Winterfest celebration. Funds raised by the ‘plungers,’ proceeds from a live auction held afterward, and parking fees are used by the Kiwanis to fund field trips and other activities for local youths throughout the year.

Inside the Hall, Boy Scouts from Troop 98, Whitpain Township, Montgomery County made and sold breakfast and lunch, bused tables, and kept trash cans emptied. The youths have been an integral part of Winterfest for more than a decade, and several of the Scouts also participated in the plunge. Vendors representing local businesses and non-profit organizations offered a variety of wares and information.

On the bottom floor of the building, families could purchase Girl Scout cookies, learn about apparatus used by law enforcement from Pennsylvania State trooper Carl Puskar (above), see a peregrine falcon up close with master falconer Mike Kuriga of Williamsport and apprentice Sean Rowland of Shunk, and make pine cone bird feeders with art students from Sullivan County High School.

They are very generous to us, so we’re glad to come and do this for them,” Sullivan County senior Sam Skoranski (above, right) said of the Kiwanis organization.

Conditions are different every year at Winterfest and have an effect on which activities can take place. While morning started below zero degrees and barely warmed into the teens, a recent spate of mild weather had made much of the lake ice to soft to support the annual fishing derby, as well as ice skating and ice hockey for youths.

There was enough snow for handlers of a dog sled team to conduct several demonstrations, but the huskies themselves were just as popular with guests when they were at rest. Ice sculptors sawed their way through several renditions. Sledding continued non-stop through the afternoon.

But it is the Polar Bear Plunge with its pageantry and dedicated participants that keeps so many guests coming back. Air temperatures at jump time hovered around 14, and a fresh skim of ice had to be raked away as emcee Burt Downs and McCarty welcomed the crowd, which was held back a bit farther from the lake due to the unsafe ice conditions.

Additional Winterfest Photos by Rick Hiduk:






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