Winter Fun Day

The brave hit the water at Pymatuning Lake for a Polar Bear Plunge to benefit the American Cancer Society. The event was held Saturday at Pymatuning State Park with the 43rd Winter Fun Day hosted by Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club. 

JAMESTOWN — People hit the trails, the slopes, the ice and even the water as part of the 43rd annual Winter Fun Day at Pymatuning State Park.

Saturday was a celebration of winter with a host of free family activities coordinated by Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club

While the state park doesn’t sponsor the event, it’s involved by allowing the snowmobile club to host it there, according to Dan Bickel, superintendent of the park.

“This really showcases all the winter activities we have at the park — snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking, ice fishing and sledding,” he said. “It gets people out to enjoy it.”

Depending on the weather, the yearly event can pull in more than a thousand people over the course of the day to the event area at Pymatuning State Park’s Shelter 4 and Beach 2, north of Jamestown, just off Route 322.

Saturday’s sunshine with temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s brought out a crowd to enjoy activities that included tractor-drawn hay rides, snowmobile demonstrations and rides for kids, plus new and used equipment, vendors and food available.

“It’s a great place to go with your kid and so he can see all this fun stuff in one day,” Wade Hoagland of Clark said. He and his son, Parker, 9, were spending the day out enjoying the sunshine and activities.

So what did Parker like about the day? “The sledding and all the fun,” he said, adding “Of course I am!” when asked if he was having a good time.

“I’m happy with the turnout,” said Denny Diodati, president of Pymatuning Trail Blazers. “We’ve had more than one thousand throughout the day.”

There also was an ice fishing tournament to benefit the snowmobile club and a Polar Bear Plunge into the icy waters of Pymatuning to benefit the American Cancer Society. But before the plunge could take place, park officials spent the morning using a tracked excavator to crack and then remove ice from the beach area.

“It’s something I always wanted to do all my life,” said Jesse Melvin, 17, of Greenville, one of 15 hardy souls who decided to take a dip into Pymatuning’s waters Saturday morning. “My aunt passed from cancer.”

The open water of the lake was about 34 degrees when the group took off with several whoops and hollers down the beach and into the water.

“It’s good ... it feels good, it’s amazing,” Melvin said of his first-time experience afterward.

For others, Saturday’s plunge was just another day at the beach.

“I never did it before — I just want to enjoy life,” Theresa Pysz, 41, of Linesville said of why she took the plunge.

“It’s really fun,” said Tom McKenzie, 70, of Greenville, who was dressed in a Superman costume, replete with cape. “I’ve had five different bouts of cancer.”

“I had leukemia and you’re doing it for a good cause,” John Fleet, 69, of Mercer said why he took the plunge. “And I like to do weird stuff,” he added with a smile.

The plunge raise more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society, according to Ernie Copper of the society’s Erie office.

Winter Fun Day closed out Saturday with an evening torch-light event put on by the state park for hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers along a one-mile loop near Shelter No. 4.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

Did you know?

Winter Fun Day’s history goes back to the mid-1970s when it got started at the Jamestown Fairgrounds in the borough by Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club. By the early 1980s, the popularity of the event had it moving to a larger area within Pymatuning State Park — Pavilion No. 4 near Jamestown. The club even got permission from state park officials to build a kitchen at Pavilion 4 in 1997.

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