Boise Festivals and Events

The Great Polar Bear Challenge - More Shrinkage Than George Costanza

People do some crazy things for charity, but jumping in Lucky Peak Reservoir on New Year's Day is easily one of the craziest. Perhaps you've heard of the local radio station that camps out on top of a donut shop for a few days every year to raise money for charity. Or maybe you know a few people who participate in one of the many running races that donates proceeds to worthy causes. Well, unless they're doing that stuff in Antarctica, they've got nothing on the members of the Make-A-Wish Polar Bear Club.

While most of us are tucked inside the cozy confines of our properly heated homes nursing New Year's hangovers, scores of brave souls gird their loins, strip down to their skivvies, and run straight into the lake's frigid waters. It might sound a tad crazy as you sit at your desk and read this, but unless you've actually dragged yourself out to the lake and witnessed the event, you have no idea how profoundly insane it is.

During the 2011 event, for example, the air temperature at the marina was somewhere around 0° and the wind chill was about 10 below. Spectators dealt with frozen fingers, toes, and noses, and some even channeled their inner wimp and hung out in their cars with the heater on. It was also cold enough that my video camera refused to work, displaying a message that simply read, "Cannot operate due to low temperature." Based on those facts, you can imagine what it was like for the participants. Yep, it was immediate shrinkage and goose bumps the size of grapefruits. In fact, I have it on good authority that some of those brave souls were still looking for their testicles on the Fourth of July.

If you think this sort of thing is a perfect way for you to make a difference (or if you have brass balls that are impervious to cold), take comfort in the fact that the event organizers are kind enough to put up a heated changing tent so your post-plunge exposure can be mercifully short. They also usually have a hot tub set up. And if you're concerned about the possibility of cardiac arrest, well, they've got a diver in the water and the Life Flight helicopter parked on the beach, just in case you need to be whisked away to the hospital. Comforting, isn't it?

For some reason, everyone's favorite behemoth weathercaster from KTVB, Larry Gebert, has made the Great Polar Bear Challenge one of his big charity events for the year. Get there early enough and you'll see him water skiing on the lake and generally having a grand ol' time. He wears a dry suit when he skis, but rumor has it that next year he's going to wear a Speedo when he takes the plunge with all the other folks. Now that's something that can't be missed, especially when it's for such a good cause.

Event: The Great Polar Bear Challenge
Where: Spring Shores Marina at Lucky Peak Reservoir

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When: New Year's Day at 10am
Cost: No cost to sign up, but each participant is asked to raise a minimum of $50 in donations through the Idaho Make-A-Wish Foundation's online giving website.
Website: Great Polar Bear Challenge
Why I love it: Why not do something worthwhile before you plop yourself on the couch all day to watch the college football bowl games?