Baldwinsville's Big Chill Weekend offers warmth too

Baldwinsville's 6th Annual Big Chill Weekend promises big thrills for Central New Yorkers, and the proceeds benefit area charities.

For many, the highlight is the Polar Bear Plunge. This year, 150 people are expected to take a dip in the Seneca River at Mercer Park. However, because of the cold, icy conditions, they're only allowed to go in up to their waist.

"When I say plunge, it's really a quick run in- run out. Most people don't submerge," says Sharon Reiser, Executive Director of the Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce. "We don't allow people to swim, and we do have the State Police dive team in the water."

With this week being so cold, keeping participants warm is a major concern.

When they come out of the water at Mercer Park, "plungers" will be able to warm up in three tents.

There will be separate tents for men and women to change, and get into dry clothes. There will also be a VIP tent -- heated just for participants.

With Baldwinsville Heating and Cooling pumping one million British Thermal Units (BTUs) into the tent, it could feel as warm as 80 degrees.

Safety is also a top priority.

The State Police Dive Team will stay in the water for the duration of the event.

"We also have people that are a part of the event, that kind of go in and make sure there's no ice in the way. We clear the ice so it's just a small section of water," Reiser says.

An ambulance and the fire department will also be on hand.

The Big Chill Weekend also offers more warm, family-friendly activities.

Friday night, neighbors are invited to celebrate the village in Viva B'Ville at the Red Mill Inn on Syracuse Street.

Various vendors from across the area will showcase the flavors of Central New York, featuring wine, chocolate, and food.

"Viva B'Ville" runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday.

Then, starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, you can sample all of the best dishes (that you can eat out of a bowl) from Syracuse-area restaurants. That's at the "best in Bowl Cook-Off" at Mercer Park.

In its five years, the Big Chill has raised $100,000 to go towards the Ronald McDonald House Charities of CNY, The Central New York Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Greater Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, each organization received a check for $12,000.

The goal this year is to at least match that amount.