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Beat the Bitter is back

Second annual winter event on course to be bigger, better
Area residents participate in The Indomitable Snow Run 5K-ish obstacle run during Beat the Bitter’s inaugural year Feb. 6, 2016. Organizers have expanded this year’s event over four days, Feb. 2-5, at various locations in North Liberty. (North Liberty Leader file photo)

North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– How do you coax Iowans out of hibernation? With fireworks, a 5K and Snuggies, of course.
Those are just a few things scheduled for North Liberty’s second annual Beat the Bitter, a two-day festival filled with winter games and good cheer.
“It’s all about putting something on your calendar you can look forward to after the holidays,” said Jillian Miller, community engagement coordinator for the City of North Liberty. “It gets you out and about instead of staying inside until spring, and enjoying what winter has to offer, not dreading it. We need to embrace the season we do have every year.”
The main festivities begin Friday, Feb. 3, with Fire & Ice Family Friday at Penn Meadows Park. There will be horse drawn carriage rides, a meet and greet with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna from Disney’s “Frozen,” an ice carving demonstration, snow volleyball and more.
To wrap up the evening, participants are invited to a community bonfire in the park, complete with fireworks.
In the winter.
“The fireworks are really going to set this event apart in our community and the corridor,” said Miller.
The fun continues Saturday morning with a free “nearly impossible” scavenger hunt throughout North Liberty, with judging at 4 p.m. in Penn Meadows, and a score of sports tournaments and activities.
Sugar Bottom Bikes will again offer fat tire bike demos from 12-2 p.m., followed by a group ride along the North Ridge Trail to Coralville.
Fat tire bikes are a larger-framed bicycle with super-wide tires, designed to handle better on snow and rough terrain.
“It’s nothing new,” said Nate Kullbom, a Sugar Bottom Bikes employee. “The reason for the fat tires is it gives you flotation over the snow; you don’t sink in.”
He said fat tire sales have continued to grow at Sugar Bottom Bikes, despite less snow over the past few years.
“A different crowd ends up with fat tire bikes than traditional cyclists,” said Kullbom. “Anytime you can get more people exercising and riding bikes is great.”
Sugar Bottom Bikes owner Jon Yetley said about 75 people demoed the fat tire bikes last year, but he hopes more will bring their bikes to join in on the group ride.
“Hopefully we’ll get a little more snow and make it more wintery feeling instead of just the bitter cold,” he added.
Also returning is The Indomitable Snow Run, a 5K-ish obstacle run around the park. It saw nearly 100 runners last year in its inaugural go-around.
Miller said although the run isn’t chip-timed, there will be more serious obstacles for participants this year.
“It’s going to put another level of challenge in front of attendees,” she promised.
Kickball is back as well, but this time with an added family component. For $75, a team of nine to 12 can participate in the family division at 10 a.m. or for $100 the adult division at 11 a.m.
Miller said the Beat the Bitter planning committee expects at least 16 teams.
“The planning process has been great,” she added. “It’s a great group with a lots of fun ideas and that’s eager to spread the word.”
People from as far as Ames have signed up for the first (hopefully annual) Snuggie Bar Crawl, which includes trolley rides between North Liberty restaurants and a cozy blanket.
“People have said I got my own Snuggie, and I keep telling them you’ll get a branded one,” said Ellen Badger, a Beat the Bitter committee member. “People have gotten them in the past as jokes and pranks and stuff. But you can actually use this one.”
To advertise the Snuggie portion of the event, Badger came up with “Teach Me How to Snuggie,” a parody music video to Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.”
“It took me one or two days to mull it over and play the video over and over and over again and think what information we wanted to have in it,” she said. “There was a moment I was thinking ‘I’m putting way to much effort into this,’ but it was also fun to do.”
The minute-or-so-long video, recorded and taped by the North Liberty Communications Department, is published on the Beat the Bitter Facebook page and has nearly 13,000 views.
“We all know people will sit and watch those funny videos,” added Badger. “One thing led to another and we actually went through with it.”
Already sold out, the big, blue, sleeved blanket is an attendee’s ticket onto the trolley Saturday night.
The North Liberty Police Department is also joining in on the fun this year with its Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Jump as a Sunday bonus activity. Proceeds from the $100 registration will benefit the department’s fundraiser to begin a K9 program.
Of the $75,000 needed to buy a vehicle and equipment, get a dog and train an officer, $6,900 has been raised so far, said Chief Diane Venenga.
The City of North Liberty has also offered to donate $30,000 this year and possibly another $30,000 next year.
“We’re getting closer to our goal pretty quick,” Venenga added.
To help the department, courageous community members can sign up for the Polar Plunge– a 10 a.m. dive into the icy waters of West Lakes Pond near North Bend Elementary.
Members of the Johnson County Metro Dive Team and EMS personnel will be present, as will a heated tent and hot chocolate for participants to thaw out.
North Liberty Police Ben Campbell did a test dive in December to check the ice thickness and water depth.
Venenga couldn’t provide an exact temperature of the water, but it’s safe to say it will be still be at or below freezing come February.
“It’s going to be cold,” she said.
Despite the expected chilly weather, the different activities should appeal to a lot of different groups, and especially to families, said Miller.
“We’re bringing the fire but hoping for a nice blanket of snow,” she added.
For a full schedule of events and registration visit beatthebitter.com.