Fredericktown Polar Bear Club takes annual dip in Mon River

  • By Scott Beveridge January 1, 2014
Image description
Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter
Matt Stay, left, and Matt Pagac were among a group of local people who took a New Year’s Day dip in the Monongahela River as part of the Fredericktown Owls Club’s Polar Bear Club. Stay agreed to wear the O-R’s GoPro camera so everyone can experience the chilly event. Order a Print
Image description
Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Frigid members of Fredericktown Polar Bear Club, from left, Chris Stay, Dan Miller and Matt Stay, head for the Monongahela River shoreline after taking a New Year’s Day dip in the water. Order a Print
Image description
Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Chris Stay of Fredericktown wore one of the most outrageous outfits to join the local Polar Bear Club in taking a New Year’s Day dip in the Monongahela River. Order a Print
Image description
Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Members of Fredericktown Polar Bear Club, including Chris Stay, who wore a red dress for the occasion, plunge into the Monongahela River in a New Year’s Day tradition dating to 1996. Order a Print

FREDERICKTOWN – The annual New Year’s Day group plunge into the Monongahela River begins in Fredericktown at noon with a candlelight vigil and moment of silence for members of a social club who died the previous year.

Members of Order of Owls 1038 in the Washington County village then walk a short distance to docks in the water, where at the count of three everyone springs into the frigid water and hurries to get back to the club to get warm.

“It was cold. It takes your breath away,” said Matt Stay of Fredericktown, who wore Christmas elf shorts as swim trunks.

His brother, Chris, donned a red dress for the occasion, saying it’s customary for some of the swimmers to outdo each other by wearing outrageous costumes.

“I just go for it,” Chris Stay said.

Nearly two dozen daredevils took a dip in the Mon Wednesday in aFredericktown tradition that dates to 1996.

“As soon as you hit the water, you are in a hurry to get out,” said Randy Miller of Fredericktown, who no longer goes into the water at the event.

Michael Zibrida of Richeyville said he and a cousin, Chandler Hayes of Florida, started the Fredericktown Polar Bear Club dip over a bet they waged that dared each of them to take a brief winter swim on the holiday or pay a $100 wager.

“It gets families together,” Zibrida said.

Nearly 100 people appeared to have crowded into the club at 313 Owls Ave. for a party after the swim.

“It’s just something to look forward to every year,” said Dylan McGrady, 19, of Vestaburg, adding he has participated in the swim since he was 6 years old.

One year, Zibrida said, the club had to break away ice on top of the water in order to complete the dare.

“The colder it is out there, the better,” Matt Stay said. “You get acclimated to the temperature of the water sooner.”

No one takes the river’s temperature before the plunge, Zibrida said.

The outdoor temperature at noon Wednesday was about 35 degrees, and the river was muddy.

Scott Beveridge has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1986 after previously working at the Daily Herald in Monongahela. He is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts and art education programs and Duquesne University’s master of liberal arts program. He is a 2004 World Affairs journalism fellow.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Fire engulfs Cecil Township house

Police beat Nov. 25

Scenery Hill to relight Century Inn sign

Pittsburgh man charged with disrobing in California police holding cell

Peters girl uses strike time to help others

2000 Turkeys reaches goal

Cecil Elementary celebrates Thanksgiving feast

Fire sweeps through Independence Township apartment building

Judge to trusts’ attorney: Recorder of deeds is not in contempt of court order

Police say North Strabane man assaulted wife as she bathed daughter