Nebraska State Patrol, fan favorites at annual Polar Plunge, readying costumes

Members of the Nebraska State Patrol's Troop E team take to the North Platte River as the 101 Dalmatians during the 2017 Polar Plunge. Costumes have included The Golden Girls, The Flintstones, superheroes and even rock band members.

For the ninth year, a team of Nebraska State Patrol troopers and investigators will take to the North Platte River for the annual Polar Plunge Saturday, Feb. 29.

The team, officially called “Nebraska State Patrol & Friends,” is a favorite because of the interesting costumes that they sport every year.

Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Chris Baer, a member of the team, said, “We actually take a lot of pride in our costumes and theme. We put a lot of work into it because it means a lot to the kids and athletes.”

Baer has been on the team, and jumping into the cold waters of the river, since that first year.

“I’m the only original member,” he jokes, noting that other troopers and investigators “have been lost to retirement.”

Some of the team’s themes have included Duck Dynasty, The Golden Girls, 101 Dalmatians, and last year, The Flintsones. Asked which costumes were his favorite, Baer admits that he isn’t sure, though he notes he did like when the team dressed as superheroes.

“I don’t know if I have a favorite,” he said. “Every year we put so much effort into it, that they are all fun.”

He does know for sure which year rates as his least favorite — that first year when he and others dressed in costumes inspired by The Golden Girls. He didn’t like jumping into the river in women’s clothing, he says.

Baer is closely involved with Special Olympics, with his daughter, Jess, being a Special Olympic’s athlete. He said, “Regardless, I would be involved anyway. I was involved in Special Olympics activities before Jess (was born) and it is just something that I feel very strongly about.”

He said he believes it is important to support Special Olympics athletes and their families and as a member of the committee that helps organize the event through the years, “I am really encouraged every year that we get the amount of involvement that we do from the community,” he said. “We raise a tremendous amount of money doing this event. With all the time and effort, the fundraising, it is all worth it in the end. We do everything we can to keep the money local, so that it benefits them, the athletes.”

At first, Baer seemed reluctant to share the plan for this year’s costume, but then noted “It’s already out there.” The team will show up as those meddling and mystery loving kids on the cartoon, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.

“Scooby-Doo will be making an appearance,” Baer said.

Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman, a member of the team that organizers the Polar Plunge, said he is expecting a good turnout.

“The feeling that I get is very good,” he said. “There is a lot of buzz about it. I’m hearing from a lot of people.”

Site preparation has been completed, with work done by Paul Reed Construction. High Plains Spa will contribute hot tubs for people to warm up in after the plunge and the National Guard provides tents for changing clothing.

“The only thing that we can’t control is the weather,” he said. “And that is looking good too.”

Overman said that he expects the warmer temperatures might bring in a few people who may have been reluctant with colder temperatures.

If the weather forecast turns out, it will be the warmest Polar Plunge on record. Currently, the forecast is putting temperatures in the low 60s.

“The warmest Polar Plunge we ever had was in the low 40s,” Overman said. “Last year, it was about 20 degrees and we had close to 100 people participating.”

Potential plungers do not have to pre-register, though it is encouraged. There are many people who do not decide until the last minute to show up and register their teams.

Registration and check-in prior to the event will be held at the Trails West Camp, beginning at 9 a.m. The plunge site will be east of the camp, near the parking lot for accessing the Monument Pathway. Plungers will start at 10:30 a.m., and Overman said that it doesn’t take long before that part of the event is completed.

Afterward, plungers can enjoy awards and a meal, served by the Special Olympics teams and families, at the Trails West Camp.

For details about the event, from ideas for fundraising to answers about the Polar Plunge, visit the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s website dedicated to the event: www.scottsbluffcounty.org/sheriff/sheriffs-office-special-olympics-polar-plunge.html.

Teams can also sign up for the event and do fundraising ahead of time at www.firstgiving.com/sone.

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