Since 1986, adventurous Alaskans from all over the state gather in Seward every January for a freezing plunge into Resurrection Bay known as the Polar Bear Jump. But the chilly challenge isn’t just for the physical feat—each participant commits to raising money for the American Cancer Society.
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Jump for a Great Cause
The Seward Polar Bear Jump is one of the most popular events on the Kenai Peninsula—when registration opens in late summer, the spots are usually filled within a few weeks. Magazines, newspapers, and websites from around the world have covered the spectacle, including Outside Magazine and USA Today. It may not be an official extreme winter sport, but it’s definitely close!
With beautiful snow-covered peaks in the background, jumpers immerse themselves via belly flop and cannonballs into the frigid 39 degree Fahrenheit-water. They’re often adorned in everything from swimsuits to ballet tutus and pirate costumes. The frosty water can be shocking to some, so a team of divers from the local fire department and the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps stand by to help anyone who needs it.
One thing that really makes this fun event stand out is the creativity and diversity of the costumes worn by participants. The competition is no joke! Later in the evening after the jump, the top 10 jumpers and costume winners are announced on a live radio show from the Liberty Theater in Seward. People take the contest seriously and put a lot of thought into their costumes.
In 2019, 26 teams comprised of 100 participants raised over $140,000 for the American Cancer Society and the local organization Kenai Peninsula Children with Cancer. That is a huge amount donated during a quick jump into the bay!
A Whole Weekend of Activities
While the polar bear jump is the main attraction, the festivities last for an entire weekend and include a parade from downtown to the harbor. It’s so popular that a bus is set up to bring in people from Anchorage, and nearly the whole town turns out to support the event in one way or another.
Not interested in or able to participate in the jump? No problem! You don’t have to leap into the water yourself to donate to such a worthwhile cause. You can raise funds by entering one of the other events, from a hot-wing eating contest to a poker tournament and a quilt show. You can compete in a bowling tournament or enter your handiwork in a craft show. There are also multiple auctions, and you can even volunteer to get your hair cut and donate it to Locks of Love.
And that’s not all: You can get to know others at community meals, like steak night and breakfast at the American Legion or at the oyster fest. In the evening, check out the multiple venues hosting live music or create the music yourself at a karaoke night with a local Alaskan cocktail. There’s never a dull moment!
Are you ready to take the plunge? Take a look at all our current job openings to see how you can gain valuable experience while exploring Alaska.