Story and photos by Wayne Peters
The 42nd Olcott Polar Bear Day Swim for Sight was held Sunday, March 6, in Olcott Beach. Overnight snow and a raw wind from the north kept the crowd down a bit from past years, but 744 swimmers braved three-foot waves and a 35-degree water temperature to raise money for the Olcott Lions Club.
Chairman Bill Clark reported that the swimmers raised more money than in the past, even with fewer people in the water. The approximately $15,000 will be used by the Lions Club for local charities.
While the number of swimmers was down this year, a record 64 women vied for the Polar Bear Queen title. It was a tough call for the judges, but in the end, 44-year-old Julie Reigle, co-owner of the Basket Factory Restaurant in Middleport, was chosen as the 2011 Polar Bear Queen.
Lions Clubs from local communities had booths with chowder, hot dogs, sausages and hot drinks, and the Newfane Panthers girls lacrosse team had a chicken barbecue to keep the 2,500 spectators well fed and somewhat warm.
Besides the tailgating, and watching the antics of many costumed characters, there were Highland Strongman Games and the local taverns had live music to entertain folks both before and after the Polar Bear Swim.