Coney Island’s Annual Polar Bear Plunge Canceled Due to COVID-19

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Photo Credit: AP

By:  Ellen Cans

The novel Coronavirus has nixed yet another New York City tradition.

Each year, thousands of people jump into the Atlantic Ocean in the frigid winter for the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s polar plunge.  This year, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the popular Brooklyn polar plunge has been canceled.

On Monday, the group’s organizers announced the cancelation, citing the pandemic, and efforts to thwart a second wave of infections.  “While we are deeply disappointed that our great New Year’s tradition will not be taking place in 2021, we know this is the right decision to make for the health and safety of our members, thousands of attendees, and tens of thousands of spectators who show up for this event every January 1st,” said Dennis Thomas, President of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club.  “We will be back bigger and stronger in 2022,” he vowed.

As reported by the NY Post, to usher in 2020, thousands had dipped in during the 116th annual Coney Island polar plunge earlier this year.  The program is an effort to help raise money for charity.  Thomas said in his statement that the group hopes New Yorkers will still contribute monetarily, as many of the surrounding communities have been struggling with COVID-19 restrictions and shut downs and have been forced to permanently close their businesses.  The Polar Bear Club’s organizers said they will be opening a platform with the Alliance for Coney Island so that the annual fundraiser can still continue, even without the plunge.

As per the company’s website  at www.polarbearclub.org, “While supporters may not be able to plunge into the Mightly Atlantic this year, we can show our commitment by purchasing 2021 Coney Island Polar Bear memorabilia designed by illustrator Paula Cohen and making a donation to help ensure the growth and livelihood of this iconic destination and neighborhood.”

Last year, The Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s Polar Plunge raised more than $85,000 which benefited local community nonprofits including the New York Aquarium, the Coney Island History Project, Coney Island USA and more, as per Eyewitness News.   This year, funds will go towards supporting educational programming, local cultural institutions and free public events such as Friday Night Fireworks, as well as to assist small businesses in the Coney Island community as they cope with woes tied to the pandemic.