New Year’s Day marks the annual Polar Bear Plunge event

New Year’s Day marks the annual Polar Bear Plunge event

CHICO — Saturday morning was frigid, but a bunch of brave people dove into Sycamore Pool at Bidwell Park and swam to the other side for the annual Polar Bear Plunge event.

The plunge has occurred annually since 1980 but did not occur in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 100 people braved the cold weather and frigid water temperature, while at least 200 people gathered to cheer their friends or relatives on or simply to watch the event.

Plunger Juan Alvarez said before the plunge that he was inspired to jump based on a dare from his family. He was at the event with his nieces and other family members.

  • Brave swimmers face the frigid water of Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 during the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

  • Santa himself, aka Mike Williams of Paradise, prepares to face the icy waters of Sycamore Pool at Bidwell Park Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 in Chico, California during the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

  • Swimmers take the plunge into the frigid waters of Sycamore Pool for the unofficial Polar Bear Swim on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Chico, California. (Dan Reidel/Enterprise-Record)

  • Brave swimmers swim across Sycamore Pool at Bidwell Park Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 during the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

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“I thought it would be cool to do it,” Alvarez said. “I’ve lived here a while and haven’t done it before.” Alvarez lives in Chico and was born in Paradise.

Chico State construction management student Thunder Shaffer said that he was doing the plunge “to start the new year off right.”

“It’s the right way to start 2022,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer plunged in his hometown of Red Bluff but it was his first time braving the freezing water of Sycamore Pool.

“I tried to fake seven injuries before coming here,” Shaffer said.

Paradise’s very own Santa, also known as Mike Williams, was at the creek to take the plunge. He was dressed in his Santa suit but disrobed right before plunging dressed in a red shirt and red shorts.

“We rebuilt this year,” Williams said. “We need a cool year.”

Santa has taken the plunge in previous years.

Nathan Garrett dried off after the plunge with a towel wrapped around his neck. He attended the event with friends.

“I got coffee and a robe,” Garrett said. “This is a great turnout. It’s good to experience this with a bunch of other people.”

Plunger Barbara King faced the walk to her car following the plunge wrapped in a towel.

“It was cold but quick,” King said about the swim. She has done the event before in Chico. “I wanted to do it because the weather was nice,” King said. “I can tell people that I did it. I have bragging rights. If conditions are good I will do it again.”

 

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