The Lewes Polar Bear Plunge Weekend Festival is upon us! What exactly does this mean? Well, a 5k race, polar bear plunge, chili contest, ice sculpting contest, and pooch parade for starters. What started as an annual, one-day event in Lewes to benefit Special Olympics Delaware has blossomed into a weekend-long affair that locals and visitors to the Lewes area look forward to every winter. The festival offers family-friendly fun, all weekend long, culminating in the polar bear plunge on Sunday, February 1st in Downtown Rehoboth.

Overview: The Lewes Polar Bears Club has been ‘plunging’ into the chilly Atlantic Ocean since 1982, diving in at Cape Henlopen State Park five times a year, on the first Sunday of the month from November through March (except for January, when they plunge on New Year’s Day). The club partnered with Special Olympics Delaware in 1991, agreeing to dedicate their February Plunge to Special Olympics Delaware. Fast forward to present day, the Lewes Polar Bear Plunge is now one of the most successful fundraisers in the state of Delaware. Last year, 3,252 Bears raised $725,000!

Pooch Parade: The Pooch Parade and Plunge will take place at 11am on Saturday, January 31st. The Parade begins at the boardwalk at the end of Rehoboth Avenue. Pooches are encouraged to dress up to parade down the boardwalk before going for a swim (plunging is optional for pooches). Prizes are awarded for Best Costume and Best Polar-Inspired Costume. The Pooch Parade and Plunge was created as a way to let our four-legged friends contribute to the cause. There is a $25 registration fee, and friends can support as well.

5K Run to the Plunge: Saturday’s run offers another chance to support the cause! The 5K walk/run is $20 and starts at 1pm on Saturday, January 31. Last year, 808 participants raised more than $33,000.

Convention Center Fire & Ice: Join in the fun on Saturday with family-friendly activities like the Polar Ice Cream Throwdown, Hot Wing Sampling, photo booth, and children’s games and activities.

Chili Contest: How about heating things up with the annual chili contest!? Purchase a $5 ballot at any of the participating restaurants and start your chili sampling tour. Judging is for Best Overall, Best Hot Chili, Most Unique, Best Vegetarian, and Judges Favorite. The contest runs from 3pm until 5pm.

Ice Sculpting Contest: We’re pretty impressed with this one! Ice sculptors will battle it out over blocks of ice starting at 10am on Saturday at the Bandstand. Judging will be held at 12:30.

The Plunge: Bears, get ready for another fun year of splashing in the Atlantic Ocean!  The fun starts at 1pm! For more on registration and FAQs, click here.