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Maryland Polar Bear Plunge 2010

On January 30, 2010, the Maryland State Police-sponsored Polar Bear Plunge event took place at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland.  The event, where participants ran into the Chesapeake Bay in winter, raised money for the Special Olympics.  The weather for this event was fitting, if also unfortunate, as the event took place as a snowstorm was dropping several inches of snow over the mid-Atlantic region.  Event organizers made sure to make a day out of the event, because along with the main event, there was food, games, and live entertainment, both inside the tents and out on a stage overlooking the beach.

For more information about the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge, visit www.plungemd.com.

In presenting this set, I have divided the day into four sections.  First, I’m setting the stage, seen in the early part of the event.  Then we’ll head inside to the tents, where the entertainment, commerce, and beer was underway.  Then at 1:00, the plunge began, with everyone over on the beach, we join the plungers as they go into the bay.  And lastly, with the snow coming down heavy and the final plunge of the day cancelled, it’s off to wait, as everyone stood in line for the buses that would take them back to their parking site.


When I arrived at the site by bus from the parking site at the Naval Academy, Sandy Point State Park was set for a day of polar bear plunge excitement.  Tents had been erected at various locations around the site, portable toilets were all around, emergency vehicles were stationed around the park, people were dressed either for winter or for a dip in the day, the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company was selling coffee, and the snow was falling.

Tent serving lunch for plunge participants.
Registration tents.
United States Coast Guard support ship stationed a few hundred feet off the beach, apparently serving as the home base for the people in the water wearing drysuits.
A person salutes while wearing a polar bear costume. Receptacle for disposal of hot coals.  It was almost like a cruel trick on this cold, snowy day, as hot coals would certainly have been welcome for warming up cold hands.
Receptacle for disposal of hot coals.  It was almost like a cruel trick on this cold, snowy day, as hot coals would certainly have been welcome for warming up cold hands.
Baltimore Ravens fan bus. Stage, used primarily for the Polar Bear Plunge Pageant, and for announcements.
Maryland State Police Crown Victoria with its lights on.  As the Maryland State Police was the sponsor of the event, their vehicles were plentiful.
Rock climbing wall, near the park entrance. A man uses a chainsaw to carve a polar bear sculpture from a large piece of wood.
Miss Maryland, America's Miss, America's Miss Teen, and Miss Maryland Teen pose for photos with Little Miss Polar Bear Plunge. Miss Maryland, America's Miss, America's Miss Teen, and Miss Maryland Teen pose for photos with Little Miss Polar Bear Plunge.
Miss Maryland, America's Miss, America's Miss Teen, and Miss Maryland Teen pose for photos with Little Miss Polar Bear Plunge.

The various tents served many purposes.  Due to the frigid weather, all of the tents were heated.  Out on the beach, three tents had been set up for people to change into and out of their plunging attire – one for men, one for women, and one for families.  Further back, the main tent housed food, items for sale, games, and live entertainment.  Another tent, a significant distance from the others, was essentially a bar tent, where people could purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.  Yet another tent sold commemorative sweatshirts, though that function was secondary to the large gas heater in the center of the tent, which many people used to warm up their hands and dry off their gloves.

Sand sculptures of plunge sponsor logos. Sand sculptures of plunge sponsor logos.
Sand sculptures of plunge sponsor logos.
Carnival games in the main tent. Carnival games in the main tent.
Carnival games in the main tent.
Sand sculptures of plunge sponsor logos. Live entertainment at the rear of the main tent.
Large gas heating unit in the sweatshirt tent - very convenient for warming hands and drying out wet gloves and hats.
Large gas heating unit in the sweatshirt tent - very convenient for warming hands and drying out wet gloves and hats.
The beer tent, a popular place for people to go ahead of the plunge. The beer tent, a popular place for people to go ahead of the plunge.
The beer tent, a popular place for people to go ahead of the plunge.

At 1:00, the plunge began.  The plungers entered the designated plunge zone, spectators gathered just outside the plunge zone, the support crew in drysuits in the water got into position, and then it was time.  People in various outfits – full dress, boardshorts, one-piece swimsuits, bikinis, speedos, and crazy costumes all headed into the water.  The falling snow seemed to complete the scene, providing proof that this was indeed winter, and that the water was cold.  The atmosphere was cheerful, as the people in the water were having a blast, and the people on the beach were cheering them on.

A man gives a high five after having taken the plunge.
A woman heads down to the water to take the plunge.
A woman heads down to the water to take the plunge.
A man gives high fives all around on his way down to the water to take the plunge.
Two men in speedos pose in the water.  Going by the expression on his face, the man on the left is very cold!
Event support staff help a woman who required rescue after she was unable to get out of the water on her own due to the cold.
A woman shivers after having taken the plunge.
People leave the water en masse at the end of the 1:00 plunge.

After the 3:00 plunge was cancelled due to the extreme cold and worsening weather conditions, everyone headed for the buses to head back to their satellite parking location.  The snow was still falling, the temperature was still bitterly cold, and the roads were getting worse by the minute.  It was a long but orderly process, as people waited in long, circuitous lines to reach the bus for their parking location.

Maryland State Police incident command vehicle. People leave the beach following the cancellation of the 3:00 plunge.
City of Annapolis ambulance, one of several ambulances on scene from various jurisdictions.
A man poses in a chicken suit following the cancellation of the 3:00 plunge. A man in a "green man" zentai suit and a man in a rainbow jumpsuit pose for the camera, all smiles.  They were unable to plunge due to the cancellation of the 3:00 plunge.
Maryland State Police Crown Victoria covered in the several inches of snow which fell during the event.  The 2010 Maryland Polar Bear Plunge did indeed occur during a full-on snowstorm!
Waiting in line for buses. Waiting in line for buses.
Waiting in line for buses.
Participants board buses back to their satellite parking location. Participants board buses back to their satellite parking location.
Waiting in line for buses.

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