After eight years, the Bearly There Polar Plunge team will host a last hoorah for its annual "Flamin' Fellas" charity event at 7 p.m. March 30 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City.
"After our first year, (as a team) three of us girls actually started volunteering at the Special Olympics Missouri and saw what the Special Olympics actually does for children and adults of all ages, so then we really developed a passion for that organization," said Amy Pemberton, one of the original team members of Bearly There.
"I had remembered when 15 or 20 years ago when they used to do the multiple sclerosis drag show at the Eagles and I said, 'We don't have anything like that anymore. Wouldn't it be fun to get all these local guys from all these local businesses to dress up as girls to compete?' Well, my team thought I was absolutely crazy. They were like, 'You're nuts, but let's give it a whirl and see if it works.'"
The team first hosted the event in 2010 at the Eagles Club in Jefferson City, where it raised $11,000 to benefit Special Olympics Missouri. After a great turnout from their first Flamin' Fellas, the team has steadily raised more money each year, moving the event to Capitol Plaza Hotel for a bigger venue. This year, its goal is to raise $50,000 to commemorate Special Olympics' 50th anniversary.
Contestants will consist of men in teams of two who strap on their high heels and perform their own routine. So far there will be 13 teams competing. The team that raises the most money through sponsors, number of tables sold and amount of tips received while shaking it for the crowd will win.
One team hosted a charity poker tournament to raise proceeds, which will go toward the team's total. There also will be a 50/50 raffle and photo opportunities with the contestants.
"This is something unique, and it's not men that would normally dress up in drag. I mean, it's your car salesman, your banker, your normal day-to-day business people and professionals you see around town," Pemberton said.
Winners of the event receive a crown, flowers, a nice pink trophy, and most of all bragging rights. Judges will include the two winners from the previous year, Special Olympics Missouri Executive Director Susan Stegeman and Gary Wilbers, a member of the Special Olympics nomination board.
Capitol Plaza Hotel will host a happy hour the same night starting at 5:30 p.m. in the atrium. They will serve beverages and food, including fish and chips for Good Friday. Ten percent of those proceeds will go toward funds raised, and no ticket is needed to attend the happy hour.
There are still red and blue tables for the Flamin' Fellas, available for purchase online at flaminfellas.com. If you are unable to attend, the main event will be broadcast on Facebook Live.
"The community of Jefferson City has just been amazing in supporting this event throughout the years," Pemberton said. "Working with the Special Olympics has been fantastic, and I would highly encourage anybody who has never volunteered for Special Olympics to go work their summer games or go to the spring games and see these athletes and see just the joy that they have on their face when they get a medal. I think if more people in our community would just actually be a volunteer and see that, they would have a passion to raise money for them as well."