Over its 11 years, the B’ville Big Chill has raised nearly $200,000 for local charities. This year’s event takes place Jan. 20. Above is a scene from the 2016 event. (Edges Photography)
There are two camps when it comes to winter: those who love it and those who don’t. For those who do embrace it, winter is a celebratory blast.
On Jan. 26, these optimists will be found at the 12th annual B’ville Big Chill, plunging into the freezing cold Seneca River all in the name of raising money for their community.
“Winter happens every year, so we might as well have fun with it,” said Mary Anne Williams, executive director of the Greater Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce.
The Big Chill is a joint collaboration between the GBCC and the Rotary Club of Baldwinsville. Participants compete either individually or as teams, with the top three fundraisers earning donations to the local charities of their choice. All remaining proceeds go to GBCC and Rotary.
“It’s proven to be a great partnership between Rotary and the chamber,” said Rotary President Meg Van Patten. “It promotes local business and promotes the ability to meet needs in the community.”
Big Chill attendees will find Mercer Park brimming with activity.
VFW Post 153 hosts the opening ceremony, and an on-site DJ keeps the music going all day long.
Those looking to get out of the cold will find a heated tent where coffee and hot chocolate will be provided by the Rotary Club’s Interact Kids.
Guests can sample the tastiest grub Baldwinsville has to offer at the Best in Bowl, a friendly competition of local eateries serving up their favorite fare.
Last year’s Best in Bowl brought in a record-breaking 350 people according to Williams and Van Patten.
And, of course, there is the infamous river plunge, when brave individuals and teams take the plunge into the often frozen Seneca River as their community cheers them on.
“Some years it’s almost tropical, and some years it’s been freezing, freezing cold and they’ve had to break the ice,” Van Patten said.
The activities don’t end with the setting of the winter sun.
From 5 to 9 p.m. the Poker Bear Express Pub Crawl will cap off the day’s festivities. Tickets are $10, and players draw a card at each location in hopes of building a winning hand.
“The person with the best hand at the end gets a prize and so does last place,” Williams said.
Over the years, the Big Chill has raised over $200,000, serving as the main fundraiser for both Rotary and the GBCC.
“Why does the chamber have to raise money?” Williams said. “Mainly because we are completely member funded. We do not receive any funding from the village or any government agency. And Rotary does so many wonderful things for the community, so it’s a great partnership.”
GBCC fosters networking and collaboration between local business and government, funds a scholarship for high school students, maintains the Baldwinsville Visitor Center, and promotes many village events.
Rotary tackles food scarcity with the Backpack Program, aids in the improvement of village parks and roads, assists with disaster relief efforts and also offers scholarships.
Van Patten credits the success of the Big Chill to the residents of the village.
“Baldwinsville is very supportive in terms of community needs,” she said. “It’s a very active community.”
For non-residents, The Big Chill is an introduction to this active community.
“A lot of people come in for this event from outside the village,” Williams said. “We have such a great little village that you can walk around. It’s a great way to show it off and promote local businesses.”
There’s another appeal as well, she adds: “For some people, it’s just fun to go jump in the river in January.”