The bonfire had better be hot because the waters of Departure Bay are certain to be a tad chilly for the 60th annual Frank Ney Memorial Polar Bear Swim.
As it has been for the past 59 years, this year’s swim happens again at Departure Bay Beach on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, in front of the Kin Hut, where swimmers will gather courage and find ways to fortify their tolerance for the elements. Sign-in starts at 11:30 a.m.
Participants and everyone who attends the event to cheer them on will enjoy live musical entertainment from a Hawaiian band led by Paul Gogo, while they have hot drinks and snacks. There will be a food truck on site too.
There will be prizes for the best costumes.
“We want people in costumes,” said Brad Ney, the event’s ‘polar piper’ who will lead swimmers to the water’s edge and fire his flare gun at precisely 1 p.m. sharp to signal the charge into the waves. “The more costumes the better.”
There will also be prizes for the oldest and youngest participants. The oldest participant was 90 last year when an estimated 250 participants churned the chuck, some briefly, other hardier souls for a bit longer before the cold forced them hurriedly back to shore.
St. John Ambulance personnel will also be standing by for anyone who stays in the water a bit too long or finds another way to hurt themselves.
Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty is once again sponsoring the event, which also collects donations to support Haven Society in Nanaimo.
Sign-up for the event is free and anyone who participates will receive a commemorative coin and certificate when they come out of the water.
“There’ll be lot of fooling around and goings-on,” Ney said. “Lots of … singing songs in the Kin Hut. We’ll have the place rockin.’”