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From 'grrr' to 'brrr' at Yough park

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

For the fourth year, a group a thick-skinned Fay-West residents will take a plunge into the icy Youghiogheny River for the Connellsville Polar Bear Club's annual New Year's Day swim.

"It was surprisingly good last year," said Frank Jacobyansky, an organizer. "I hope we get more this year."

The original club, which is named the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, was founded in 1903 by Bernarr Macfadden, who was called the "father of physical culture" because he was an early advocate of physical fitness, natural foods and exercise.

Macfadden wrote more than 100 books on his theories of health, sexuality and fitness, and believed that a dip in the Atlantic Ocean during wintertime would benefit a person's stamina, virility and immunity.

The frigid activity supplies a hefty shot of adrenaline, according to polar bear swimmers, by "kick starting" the adrenal system, which gives a natural endorphin high.

Numbers for the local jump have increased from 41 people the first year to 45 the second year. Nearly 120 participated last year, with at least that many spectators.

The event will start with Girl and Boy Scout Pack/Troop 101 cleaning the area of Yough River Park from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

On the day of the jump, participants are asked to bring a canned food item that will be donated to local food banks.

Last year, Jacobyansky said planners had four big boxes of food products.

"Everyone I meet, I tell them to jump into the river," Jacobyansky said.

With the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh calling for possible snow showers a day or two before Jan. 1, the temperature of the river is expected to be 36 degrees.

Some will go all in, dunking their heads underwater, while others stand with water up to their ankles. A few will stay in the water for as long as a minute, but most will be in for about 20 seconds before running to shore.

No matter how cold they get, hot chocolate will be available, with New Haven Hose Co. donating use of its generator.

The jump will tentatively take place at 11 a.m. at Yough River Park.

Anyone interested in the annual meeting of the Connellsville Polar Bear Club is welcome to participate. Shoes are suggested.

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