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Polar Bear Plunge Needs New Beach After Hurricane

Annual fundraiser for the food pantries will likely take place in Amagansett, instead of East Hampton, on New Year's Day.

The annual Polar Bear Plunge, which raises money for the local food panties, has to be relocated thanks to Hurricane Sandy's wrath, which caused some damage at Main Beach in the village.

Kathy Byrnes, the chairwoman of the East Hampton Food Pantry and who helps organize the event, said the New Year's Day activity will likely move to Indian Wells or Atlantic Avenue beach, both of which are in Amagansett and are locations where the plunge was held in previous years. It has been at Main Beach for the past two years.

Late last month, the superstorm caused beach erosion and some structural damage to the Main Beach pavilion. "Although the damage to the actual pavilion is minor, the access to it is severely damaged," said Ed McDonald, the beach manage. "The only reason the pavilion survived is that it was supported by footings that were driven deep into the sand and allowed the surf to flow under the building," he said, adding that the building is fenced off for public safety.

There is also a considerable drop-off from the parking area to the beach due to the amount of sand that washed away. The Village Department of Public Works has filled in a small area for beach access, but McDonald said it is not practical for large numbers of people.

The polar bear plunge drew over 420 plungers on Jan. 1, 2012.

It has been held at Main Beach for the past two years. "We came on board officially almost three years ago when the Ocean Rescue and Hurricane swim team thought there could be more money made for the pantries , like the Southampton Plunge," Byrnes said.

The plunge has made an average of $10,000 each year.

"After a meeting with Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, we both felt that because of safety and logistical concerns it would be prudent to not use Main Beach for the Polar Bear Plunge this year," McDonald said over the weekend.

He said a meeting with the Plunge Committee is scheduled for Nov. 27 to discuss a relocation. "Hopefully, next year this worthwhile event can return to Main Beach," he added.

Byrnes said she doesn't think the move will affect the event overall "because it is a great cause and everyone from near and far will come out again to support us."

"This year we are stepping it up by asking people to get supported by family and friends not just pay the admission fee of $25," Byrnes said. "The high school has a challenge as well; the class that raises the most funds gets to carry the principal into the ocean with them. We are having a best costume award and a 50/50 raffle, we are looking for sponsors to cover the cost of hats and misc expenses as well. We really want this to be a community affair."

But, she has a tip for plungers and spectators: Get there early. Last year, they had people running down the road to get there on time.

Correction: Kathy Byrnes is the chairwoman, not the executive director, as the article previously stated.

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