After snow this week, and with temperatures expected to be in the 30s this weekend, the water off Coopers Beach will be more than cold enough for participants who will help mark the 10th year of the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday morning.The annual fundraiser, which benefits the Human Resources of the Hamptons food pantry, is anticipated to be bigger than ever this year, and organizers are hoping to raise $100,000 for the cause.
The event, which has grown steadily since 2004, saw 411 participants take the plunge last year, according to Kerry Lewendoski, the newly appointed head of the charity organization.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” she said this week. “I just think it is amazing that every year more and more people come together to help something that helps the community so much.”
The event has been a staple in the Southampton community since its inception in 2004. This week, former Village Mayor Joseph Romanosky Jr. recalled the first event, held during his time in office, for which he donned a woman’s bathing suit and a long blonde wig to raise money. He said the plunge is one of his favorite events in the village.
Although he said the event itself is a lot of fun, Mr. Romanosky said his favorite part is the camaraderie it spreads. He added that the event is about neighbors taking care of neighbors, and to him that is truly special.
“Southampton Village is very family-oriented and always has been,” he said. “The event has turned into a really fine thing—it is a community thing for the families to get involved. It gets everyone involved, and it is really about the Christmas spirit, that it is much better to give than to get.”
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said he remembers that first year, adding that Mr. Romanosky’s costume was an inspiration. He said that he did not wear a costume for the initial plunge, but because he was the mayor for the second event, he knew he should step up and follow Mr. Romanosky’s example.
That second year, Mayor Epley wore a hula skirt, and ever since his costumes have become a signature part of the event. They have included a giant banana, Elvis, as well as some group costumes with his family, including Batman and Robin, and the members of the band Kiss in full facepaint.
Participants in the plunge are encouraged to wear a costume, but it is not mandatory.
Although Mr. Epley would not spill the beans on his costume for the big 10th anniversary, he said it has always been a family affair for him, and that he is looking forward to Saturday.
“It is one of my favorite events,” he said. “Every year I try to get everybody to come down and do the event, and for the most part, people participate.”
As an added feature, this year a group of local Marines will drive a military Humvee down the beach before also participating in the plunge. According to Ms. Lewendoski, the group approached Human Resources of the Hamptons about helping this holiday season and volunteered to participate in the event. “We look forward to working with them in the future on many other projects,” she added.
In order to participate, plungers must raise or donate $25 to the organization, and must be registered Saturday morning before 9:30 a.m. The dive is expected to kick off at 10 a.m. sharp, and emergency personnel from the Southampton Village Police, Southampton Volunteer Ambulance, Southampton Village Ambulance and Southampton, Hampton Bays, and North Sea fire departments will be on hand.
“It is amazing, because it seems like more and more people turn out to help something that I consider to be a noble and well-needed cause,” Ms. Lewendoski said. “It is amazing to have that kind of support from the community.”
Ms. Lewendoski, who has participated in the plunge several times, said she is looking forward to this year’s, noting that each year people come out of the water with a different perspective. Each year, she said, she gets something new out of the experience.
“Every year is something so unique,” she said. “This is something that benefits what is much needed in the community, and just to see the numbers rising year to year, and seeing so many people doing what they can to help those in the community that need it, you walk away with a great warm feeling in your chest. I guess that is what you call the Christmas spirit.”
The Human Resource of the Hamptons group invites everyone to attend the event, even if not participating in the plunge.
“Come on down and have fun,” she said. “It is a wonderful thing to watch and be a part of.”