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B'ville Big Chill - Time for Plunge

Baldwinsville Mayor Joseph Saraceni, left, and Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson prepare to lead plungers into the Seneca River during Big Chill 2011. The two mayors kicked off last year’s Polar Bear Plunge,  an event that returns to Baldwinsville’s Mercer Park this Saturday along with other Big Chill events such as the Poker Bear Express, a Wine Tasting event and Best in Bowl cookoff.

Baldwinsville Mayor Joseph Saraceni, left, and Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson prepare to lead plungers into the Seneca River during Big Chill 2011. The two mayors kicked off last year’s Polar Bear Plunge, an event that returns to Baldwinsville’s Mercer Park this Saturday along with other Big Chill events such as the Poker Bear Express, a Wine Tasting event and Best in Bowl cookoff. Photo by Erin Wisneski.

— Despite an unseasonably warm start to winter, the single digit weather Central New York typically experiences in January finally arrived this past weekend, and just in time for Baldwinsville’s Big Chill.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the two-day Big Chill event kicks off Friday evening with a wine, cheese and chocolate event, which organizer Tony Saraceni said “is incredible,” at the Red Mill Inn. Advance sale tickets are $30 per person, or $50 per couple, and include 10 wine tastings from Hunt Valley, cheese and chocolate samples from Buttercup Cheese and Speach Family Candy Shoppe, respectively, as well as food from Tabatha’s Family Tree, a silent auction and music from Jamie Notarthomas.

Saturday’s main attraction, the Polar Bear Plunge, kicks off at noon at Mercer Park.

“The Polar Bear Plunge is the most entertaining event and there are going to be some pretty entertaining costumes this year,” Saraceni said. “Be sure to look out for Team Bookseller.”

Featuring entries from Fresh Mex, Silver Fox, Canales, Big Mamas, B’ville Diner, Daniellas, Tabathas, Gentile, Fat Johnny’s and more, tasters get a great deal for the Best in Bowl contest, which also starts at noon, paying $5 for unlimited samples from each of the participants.

“All in all, the weekend is very affordable for people,” Saraceni said.

Other events such as the snowman-making contest will be going on through the afternoon. In the evening, the Poker Bear Express kicks off. Held from 5 to 9 p.m., participants can pick up a game card for $10 then head to participating establishments (Red Mill Inn, Sammy Malone’s, Badlands, Lake Effect and Fat Johnny’s) to collect their poker hand. The best five-card poker hand submitted wins the event.

Saraceni said organizers hope to raise between $45,000 and $50,000 this year, which would exceed last year’s record of $35,000. “That would enable us to donate $10,000 to each organization after expenses,” he said.

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