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Some people ring in the New Year by setting off fireworks, some eat pork and sauerkraut and others take an icy dip into the Susquehanna River.

On Monday, more than 100 people braved frigid temperatures, which remained below 20 degrees, to take part in the Penguin Plunge on Harrisburg’s City Island.

The event is one of three fundraisers for the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area.

“I think it’s just that it’s crazy, it’s different and something that not many other organizations do, so it attracts people for the sole basis that it’s something crazy and unusual,” said Megan Strausbaugh, director of marketing for the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area. “People are drawn towards that because it’s not typical.”

Crews from local river rescue organizations had to clear away snow and break ice to allow plungers room to dive into the water. This is only the second time in the history of the Penguin Plunge that ice had to be cleared away, Strausbaugh said.

More than 100 people registered for the event and many more signed up the Monday, she said.

James Shallenberger, of Camp Hill, said he frequently swims in the river but has never done an official event like this.

“I have been in the water when it’s this cold in the past,” he said. “So, I’m just kind of remembering that I survived it.”

Shallenberger said his technique is to “get in and get out quickly.”

Like Shallenberger, Eric Dale, of Carlisle, said the event was a good way to give back.

“It’s for a good cause,” Dale said. “We donate the money, but that’s the easy part.”

Dale has been doing the Penguin Plunge for nearly 10 years with his friends and said this year was coldest the water has ever been.

“It’s cold,” he said as ice formed on his beard. “It’s really, really cold.”

According to Strausbaugh, the event was expected to bring in $30,000 to $40,000.

In May, the Humane Society holds a 5k run/walk at Wildwood Park and in November, the organization hosts a black tie “fur ball gala.”

Through adoptions, rescues, veterinary and other service, Strausbaugh said the Humane Society assists more than 10,000 animals a year in Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin and York counties.

Email Joshua Vaughn at Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.


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