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Port Jervis hosts 5th annual Polar Plunge at West End Beach!

By Sharon E. Siegel

Elevated water levels resulting from days of recent heavy rain, allowed 58 registered Port Jervis Polar Plunge recipients to walk enter the river via a submerged sandy beach area for their cold water plunge this year. Typically, in shallower levels, the river bed entrance and swim area along West End beach is rocky.

Some plunged into the water repeatedly, even diving in headfirst or staying in to swim near Port Jervis Fire Department's river-stationed dive team. Swimmers included multi-generations of families, groups of friends, individuals, and some regional elected officials.

Newly elected Port Jervis Mayor Dominic Cicalese and newly elected Matamoras, PA Mayor Cory Homer, along with other officials, were among repeat participants. PJ Councilman-at-Large Mike Hockenberry dove in headfirst, twice, joined by fellow First Ward Council members Colin O'Connell and Jason Vicchiariello, who stayed in for an extended swim.

Bonfires were tended to by members of PJFD, and hot chocolate and music were provided from tents on the beach.

Many in this fifth Port plunge event were repeat participants. Others ventured into the mid-40's water for their first wintertime plunge. Some were costumed in theme attire, including penguin participant Chip Estenes. Carrying a sign that said 'South Pole or Bust' on one side and 'will work for fish' on the other side, Estenes has participated in all five of Port's 'freezin for a reason' events and was a top pledge donor with $570.10 raised for Port Jervis Fire Department's Special Operations Team.

Estenes, a member of the Port Jervis Outdoor Club, routinely enjoys outdoor adventures such as biking, hiking, and mountain biking, and has recently added snowshoeing. However, his Polar Plunge participation is always to support Port's Recreation Department fundraiser for PJFD.

"These men and women put themselves on the line as volunteers to save us and help us out in our community, and I'm just glad to be able to help in this way. They're great," said Estenes.

Estenes said he finds the hardest part of the winter plunge to be having the cold air (49-degrees on Saturday morning) hit when wet, but does enjoy the personal challenge.

Thomas Brislin, another five-time event participant, is also always glad to be able to support the water operations team fundraiser. He, however, finds the initial going into the cold water to be the hardest.

"But it makes you feel like a million dollars to be able to help with such a deserving cause," Brislin said.

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