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6:22 AM Fri, Jan. 18th

Sink, swim, or just chill out at Polar Bear Splash

Family-friendly event Saturday at Prescott Valley’s Mountain Valley Splash

Participants dive into the pool at Mountain Valley Splash in Prescott Valley for last year's Polar Bear Splash. (Tribune file)

Participants dive into the pool at Mountain Valley Splash in Prescott Valley for last year's Polar Bear Splash. (Tribune file)

Some dive head first. Some jump feet first. Some run and leap.

Some float. Some sink.

Some — very few — put a toe into the frigid waters of Mountain Valley Splash outdoor swimming pool and decide to go no further.

No matter how you make the plunge, the 14th annual Polar Bear Splash is a free chilly-waters, chilly-weather event that takes place on the first Saturday of the New Year.

This year’s event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Mountain Valley Splash, 8600 E. Nace, Prescott Valley. The outdoor, family-friendly affair goes until noon, and spectators will want to dress warmly.

Participants in the Splash can dress however they choose, but it is likely more clothes will not help keep the chill away once under water where temperatures are expected to be around 42 degrees, said Brady Peck, PV Parks and Rec coordinator.

“The temperature varies from year to year depending on the air temperature,” he added.

Contestants must be 18 years or older.

The big plunge begins at 11:45 a.m. It doesn’t take long for participants to locate and retrieve metal washers at the bottom of the pool. Each washer has a number that corresponds to prizes, such as Sportsman’s Warehouse, which is donating 10 $10 gift certificates; gift certificates for meals from Denny’s and Culver’s; a gadget to charge electronic devices and to charge a car from BatteriesPlus; and gift baskets from Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.

“We are lucky to have businesses gracious enough to donate to keep the event free for the community,” Peck said.

This past year, 69 people participated in the Splash, a record number. But then, the water temperature was a “warm” 47 degrees because of the unusually balmy winter weather, Peck said. Most years the water temps are around 38 degrees.

Prior to last year’s large number of participants, 36 people registered for the event. Peck said he expects between 30 and 35 based on historic averages.

“We’re thrilled if we get more than that. We do know that last year the warm temperature was an anomaly, so we’re not expecting that this year by any means,” he said.

Event attendance usually runs between 220 to 225. The IHOP free pancake breakfast begins at 10 a.m. for as long as supplies last; IHOP servers provide about 250 breakfasts. There are usually a few pancakes left for staff, Peck said, “but we ran out quickly last year.”

Children can top off the carb-heavy breakfast with yet more carbs at a Doughnut Eating Contest and Ice Cream Eating Contest — no hands allowed at either event.

The infamous Ice Princess Contest will “reveal” the best-looking and hairiest bare chest as some lucky man will win the right to wear the Ice Princess sash and tiara. New ones are made each year so winning contestants can hang their sash on a wall or display it however they desire, Peck said.

Yellow rubber duckies will swim down Mountain Splash’s bright orange slide with the selection of one lucky ducky winner for an undisclosed prize. Historically, it has been a $200 gift certificate for a pair of sunglasses, but that is still in the works, Peck said on Dec. 27. Registration for the duck race and the plunge is conducted on site.

Also on site will be a team of EMTs from Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority — just in case the excitement and cold water shock puts contestants in distress. “That’s because jumping into cold water is a higher risk activity,” Peck said, adding that lifeguards also are available if someone has a medical emergency.

This year’s new sponsor, Prescott Valley Heating and Cooling, will provide portable heaters, hot chocolate and soup. Many ways to keep warm even with the bone-chilling weather, Peck said.

He should know how welcome those can be. Once the Parks and Rec employees have cleaned up after the event, the tradition is for staff to jump into the water.

“And it’s cold. Two years ago I stayed cold for the rest of the weekend,” he said. “It’s a ton of fun to do something crazy with a bunch of other crazy people. It provides a great memory that you’ll have for life.”

The department will keep an eye on the weather forecast and decide by Jan. 2 whether weather conditions will be right — cold enough — to make snow. The hill outside the pool fence is great for sledding.

For more information, call Brady Peck at 928-759-3130.

Follow Sue Tone on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at stone@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.