Plays, parades and musicals abound in the Fayetteville area during the holiday season. There is something festive for everyone to enjoy. If you are looking for something out of the norm to complement your traditional pageant and light show, take the Polar Bear Plunge at Smith Lake Dec. 12.

The event, hosted by Fort Bragg’s Morale Welfare and Recreation Division, started four years ago as entertainment for soldiers before the usual mass exodus to their home states during the holiday block leave period. 

“There’s no other event like it in the Fayetteville area,” said Sabina Bryant, the Chief of Outdoor Recreation for Fort Bragg’s MWR. With the success of the first year, MWR added the plunge to the annual calendar. The event is open to the public and it keeps growing.

“It evolved from 80 people to more than 300,” Bryant said. “Last year about 350 participated.”

After a sing-along to get things started, a countdown prepares participants. 

“We line people up for a mass plunge,” Bryant said. “The average water temperature is 63-67 degrees, it depends on the weather leading up to the event. It’s not actually freezing, but still kind of nippy.”

Participants stay in the lake as long as they can stand it, Bryant said, “typically, not more than five minutes in the water.” Lifeguards will be on-site to monitor safe practices.

Bryant said there will be heat blankets and heated tents on-site to warm up participants.

Returning plungers will see an addition to the event this year.

“This year we will have ‘the iceberg’ in the water if people want to challenge themselves,” Bryant said.

‘The iceberg’ is a giant inflatable floating in the lake.

“Participants can plunge in and swim the 150 feet out to the iceberg, climb it and jump back in the water and swim to shore,” Bryant said.

She said she sees a lot of repeat participants. 

“The big thing is to team up and dress alike in costumes,” Bryant said.

For those not quite ready to plunge into 60-degree water in the middle of December, family-friendly activities like marshmallow roasting over fire rings, music, hay wagon rides and games are definite crowd pleasers.

The Highland Games have log throws, the Polar Bear Plunge will have a Christmas tree launch, Bryant said. Also, Santa and Mrs. Claus, Frosty, Rudolph and the Grinch will be on hand to entertain.

“It is a family event,” she said. “We get participants from children to seniors. Those under 18 need consent of a parent or guardian. We do not recommend anyone younger than five to actually plunge.”

The Polar Bear Plunge takes place at 12 p.m. Dec. 12 at Smith Lake Recreation Area and is open to the public. Participants can register online, in person at Smith Lake or on the day of the event. Pre-registration continues until Dec. 9 with a fee of $10. Same day registration costs $15 and begins at 10 a.m. Dec. 12. Spectators are welcome, free of charge. All registered plungers will receive an “I Survived the Smith Lake Polar Bear Plunge” long-sleeved T-shirt. Costumes are encouraged. Concessions will be available for purchase.

For more information or to register, visit http://bragg.armymwr.com/us/bragg/ft-bragg-events/polar-bear-plunge/?eID=325601 or call 396-5979.

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