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Second annual Beat the Bitter

Winter games and good cheer focus on the family
Two noble steeds wait patiently to cart around another group of kids and parents during Beat the Bitter’s Fire & Ice Family Friday on Feb. 3, in Penn Meadows Park. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– Wind chills in the teens didn’t stop thousands from enjoying another year of North Liberty’s Beat the Bitter the weekend of Feb. 3 at Penn Meadows Park.
“It’s nice to have something to do in the winter,” said Sarah Espy, of North Liberty.
She and her husband Matt Espy, along with their two children, agreed the cold temperatures were worth the festivities.
“It could be a lot worse,” said Matt.
Roughly 2,500 people participated in the event’s winter games and good cheer Feb. 2-5, with thousands more enjoying the fireworks from their homes Friday evening, said Jillian Miller, community engagement coordinator for the City of North Liberty.
The weekend, which kicked off with a craft brews and eats pairing at the North Liberty Community Library on Thursday, was packed full of family-friendly events, such as horse drawn carriage rides, a meet-and-greet with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna from Disney’s “Frozen,” a kickball tournament, a “nearly impossible” scavenger hunt, and community bonfire followed by fireworks.
“We had really nice weather,” said North Liberty Communications Director Nick Bergus. “It made playing in the park something you could in February, which was great.”
By nice, he means evening temperatures hovering in the mid-20s, but the below-freezing digits didn’t seem to hinder the fun. Thankfully, there was plenty of hot chocolate to keep everyone warm, with 20 gallons served Friday night alone, said Bergus.
“We like to think we beat bitter so badly that we had the good weather on Monday,” he added, referring to the 57-degree start to last week.
Nearly 150 people– an increase from last year’s 80 participants– turned out for the Indomitable Snow Run, a 5K-ish obstacle run around Penn Meadows Park, on Saturday, Feb. 4. Joe Hughes, of Coralville, held on to his first-place title, finishing alongside the female winner Katie Hoefer, of North Liberty. The two conquered the run in the fastest times, scaling walls and flipping tires in the process.
Following the 5K were family and adult kickball tournaments on the Penn Meadows ball diamonds. Team Kickballs Out for Harambe won the family division, while team Make Kickball Great Again was victorious in the adult division.
The adult fun continued with the sold-out Snuggie Bar Crawl, an addition to this year’s festivities, on Saturday night.
“People go out in North Liberty, but this was an opportunity to do a little something different,” said Bergus. “It isn’t something we get to do very often.”
With their “ticket” (a blue, Beat the Bitter Snuggie) participants could board a green trolley to several restaurants in town, including Red’s Alehouse and the newly opened Beer Burger– which boasts pour-your-own tap walls.
On Sunday, around 60 showed up at Centennial Park Pond to watch 15 jumpers immerse themselves in the icy waters as part of a North Liberty Police Department fundraising event.
Police Chief Diane Venenga said the Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Jump raised $3,800 toward the department’s K9 program. Of the $75,000 needed to buy a vehicle and equipment, get a dog and train an office, about $7,000 has been raised so far. The City of North Liberty has also offered to donate $30,000 this year and possibly another $30,000 next year.
“It was fun and a great turn out,” Venenga said.
As were the rest of the activities, Bergus noted, despite another year of no snow.