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Nearly 500 participate in Polar Bear Plunge in Connellsville

Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Charter members of the Polar Bear Plunge at Yough Park in Connellsville take to the water to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the event on New Year's Day. Jamie McPoyle, one of those members first to brave the elements, makes his way out of the Youghiogheny River after completely submerging himself, to celebrate the beginning of 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Charter members of the Polar Bear Plunge at Yough Park in Connellsville take to the water to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the event on New Year's Day. Jamie McPoyle, one of those members first to brave the elements, makes his way out of the Youghiogheny River after completely submerging himself, to celebrate the beginning of 2014.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Frank Jacobyansky laughs at the chill in the air as he splashes water on his chest exclaiming, 'It's not that cold,' before the 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville. Jacobyansky is recognized as the originator of the event, which has grown to include hundreds of participants and donations for local food banks.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Frank Jacobyansky laughs at the chill in the air as he splashes water on his chest exclaiming, 'It's not that cold,' before the 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville. Jacobyansky is recognized as the originator of the event, which has grown to include hundreds of participants and donations for local food banks.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Polar Bear Plunge participants wave as their picture is taken in commemoration of the 10th year of the event in Connellsville. Hundreds braved the chilly Youghiogheny River, diving in to ring in the new year on Wednesday morning.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Polar Bear Plunge participants wave as their picture is taken in commemoration of the 10th year of the event in Connellsville. Hundreds braved the chilly Youghiogheny River, diving in to ring in the new year on Wednesday morning.
Lori C. Padilla | for Trib Total Media - Superman and Batman decided to show their resistance to cold and snow by taking a New Year's jump into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville during the 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Man of Steel Greg Kloock of Scottdale (left) joins forces with the Dark Knight Mark Hofmann of Connellsville.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for Trib Total Media</em></div>Superman and Batman decided to show their resistance to cold and snow by taking a New Year's jump into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville during the 10th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Man of Steel Greg Kloock of Scottdale (left) joins forces with the Dark Knight Mark Hofmann of Connellsville.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Charter member George Eutsey of Connellsville (right) highlights his name before taking his10th jump into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville on New Year's Day. The Polar Bear Plunge celebrated its 10th year on Wednesday with many of the charter members participating. Chase McKnight of Dunbar (left) looks for his name to highlight for his third year of the plunge.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Charter member George Eutsey of Connellsville (right) highlights his name before taking his10th jump into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville on New Year's Day. The Polar Bear Plunge celebrated its 10th year on Wednesday with many of the charter members participating. Chase McKnight of Dunbar (left) looks for his name to highlight for his third year of the plunge.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Participants in the Polar Bear Plunge found ways to stay warm before and after their dip into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville. Emily Bailey (right) hangs on to the towel for Kara Gremell (left), who attempts to keep warm before diving into the water for third year.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Participants in the Polar Bear Plunge found ways to stay warm before and after their dip into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville. Emily Bailey (right) hangs on to the towel for Kara Gremell (left), who attempts to keep warm before diving into the water for third year.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - For the Polar Bear Plunge in Connellsville on New Year's Day, many participants felt it a great time to dress up and enjoy the annual event. Four-year participant Jayme Roadman of Dickerson Run (center), dressed for the celebration, joined by friends Chad Galley (left) and Noel Ranker, who didn't dress as colorfully to jump into the Yough.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>For the Polar Bear Plunge in Connellsville on New Year's Day, many participants felt it a great time to dress up and enjoy the annual event. Four-year participant Jayme Roadman of Dickerson Run (center), dressed for the celebration, joined by friends Chad Galley (left) and Noel Ranker, who didn't dress as colorfully to jump into the Yough.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - The Polar Bear Plunge originated 10 years ago with more than 40 participants running, jumping or wading their way into the Yough. Ten years later, hundreds of people have joined the plunge to begin the new year. The charter members gather at Yough River's edge to prepare for their jump and lead the charge into the chilly waters.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>The Polar Bear Plunge originated 10 years ago with more than 40 participants running, jumping or wading their way into the Yough. Ten years later, hundreds of people have joined the plunge to begin the new year. The charter members gather at Yough River's edge to prepare for their jump and lead the charge into the chilly waters.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Kathy Barr of Virginia and Mark Miller of Hunker laugh and wave to the crowd as they participate in their first Polar Bear Plundge at Yough Park on Wednesday morning to kick off 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Kathy Barr of Virginia and Mark Miller of Hunker laugh and wave to the crowd as they participate in their first Polar Bear Plundge at Yough Park on Wednesday morning to kick off 2014.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Charter member Jack Crislip (right) takes some time to warm up by the heater with 9-year-old Elle Crislip after the two took the Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday morning. Jack Crislip has taken the plunge for nine of the 10 years of the event, missing it only once due to attending the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. This was Elle's second year to brave the cold Youghiogheny River.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Charter member Jack Crislip (right) takes some time to warm up by the heater with 9-year-old Elle Crislip after the two took the Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday morning. Jack Crislip has taken the plunge for nine of the 10 years of the event, missing it only once due to attending the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. This was Elle's second year to brave the cold Youghiogheny River.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - A plunge into the Youghiogheny River can be considered a way to purge the challenges of the past year. Eugene and Candy Gordon of Mt. Braddock (left), along with Cindy and Dale Lemon of Uniontown, charged the Yough River in Connellsville in an effort to wash away all the bad things that happened to them during 2013 and look forward to a better 2014. The sign they held during their dip held the names of those they lost as well as other challenges of the year and was later burned in the bonfire.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>A plunge into the Youghiogheny River can be considered a way to purge the challenges of the past year. Eugene and Candy Gordon of Mt. Braddock (left), along with Cindy and Dale Lemon of Uniontown, charged the Yough River in Connellsville in an effort to wash away all the bad things that happened to them during 2013 and look forward to a better 2014. The sign they held during their dip held the names of those they lost as well as other challenges of the year and was later burned in the bonfire.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Polar Bear Plunge originator Frank Jacobyansky congratulates Marilyn Forbes on her first New Year's jump into the Yough on Wednesday morning. The water and winter air proved not to be as cold as was predicted, making it easier for first-time participants to enjoy the tradition.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Polar Bear Plunge originator Frank Jacobyansky congratulates Marilyn Forbes on her first New Year's jump into the Yough on Wednesday morning. The water and winter air proved not to be as cold as was predicted, making it easier for first-time participants to enjoy the tradition.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - The Polar Bear Plunge at Yough Park was enjoyed not only by humans, but also canines as 6-year-old Spartacus couldn't get enough of chasing the stick his owner, Kerry Bell of Mt. Pleasant, was throwing into the water. This is the first year the two took the New Year's jump into the river.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>The Polar Bear Plunge at Yough Park was enjoyed not only by humans, but also canines as 6-year-old Spartacus couldn't get enough of chasing the stick his owner, Kerry Bell of Mt. Pleasant, was throwing into the water. This is the first year the two took the New Year's jump into the river.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - The food bank at Connellsville Area Community Ministries took in a great deal of donations from the participants of the Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday morning. Volunteer Chuck Hubbell (from left), executive director Chip Rowan and volunteer Barry Craig celebrated the new year collecting the donations at Yough Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>The food bank at Connellsville Area Community Ministries took in a great deal of donations from the participants of the Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday morning. Volunteer Chuck Hubbell (from left), executive director Chip Rowan and volunteer Barry Craig celebrated the new year collecting the donations at Yough Park.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier - Lori Beal (left) videotapes friends Cassandra Madison and Sam Ulery coming out of the water while Jackie Keefer (right) cheers them on during the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville on Wednesday morning.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lori C. Padilla  |  for the Daily Courier</em></div>Lori Beal (left) videotapes friends Cassandra Madison and Sam Ulery coming out of the water while Jackie Keefer (right) cheers them on during the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge into the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville on Wednesday morning.

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By Rachel Basinger
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 5:42 p.m.
 

It was a milestone jump into the Youghiogheny River at Yough Park in Connellsville on Wednesday.

Approximately 40 of the founding members and original jumpers celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Polar Bear Plunge by running into the river 5 minutes before the rest of the nearly 500 participants.

Mike Parlak, one of the founding organizers of the event, said it has grown from just over 40 people to “10 times that.”

Parlak added, “The man responsible for all of this is Frank Jacobyansky. His and my kids and Vinny Traynor's kids were all involved in Scouts and one day Frank (Jacobyansky) brought up the idea and we decided to go with it.”

Jacobyansky said they never dreamed it would take off like it has.

“It's become a wonderful tradition in Connellsville and people expect it now,” Jacobyansky said. “It's crazy enough that people want to join in, but it's fairly safe — we haven't lost anyone yet.”

Jonathan Luczka and his dad, Philip, were two of the people who took the plunge 10 years ago after their friend, George Eutsey, dragged them along.

“It's become a father-son tradition now,” said Philip Luczka, who added that even though the duo now knows what to expect when they jump in, it's still invigorating.

“We're also a whole lot more prepared,” Philip Luczka said, pointing out the mat they brought to stand on when they came out of the river as well as extra clothes, towels and shoes.

“We will continue to keep doing this,” Philip Luczka said. “We need to keep the tradition going — not only for the community, but for the family as well.”

This is the fourth year that Kendyl Crosby and her dad, Scott, of Greensburg have come to Connellsville to participate in the New Year's Day fun.

She said that while she was nervous the first year, she gets excited about it these days.

Originally her group had just three participants, but this year a total of 10 jumped into the river.

“It's something that grows every year for us,” Crosby said.

Jacinta Ptacek of Connellsville is fairly new to the event, jumping in the last three years. Her 11-year-old son, Brady, has been jumping with her for the last two.

“It's just something that I wanted to be a part of, to start the New Year off right,” she said. “It's just neat to be able to say you did it.”

Luella Hawk first participated with her sisters four years ago after their mother died. It was a way for them to pull together.

Hawk's 7-year-old daughter, Lydia, also looks forward to taking the plunge with the group.

“It's just fun to get wet,” she said.

The event apparently has provided an opportunity for families to begin and continue a tradition.

Parlak seemed to sum it up best.

“I think you just have to have a little crazy in you to do this,” he said.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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