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A bigger and better Beat the Bitter

Registration is open for the winter event
Participants compete in Beat the Bitter’s 5K-ish obstacle run in 2017. Next month will mark the third annual Beat the Bitter in North Liberty, which expands to a full week of festivities from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3. Registration for the event is currently open. (photo provided by Beat the Bitter)

North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– It started as a conversation between a few residents in fall 2015.
“They started talking about how Iowans are bad at doing winter,” recalled North Liberty Community Engagement Coordinator Jillian Miller. “And that people in Minnesota actually enjoy the season and go out and play winter sports, and take advantage of the snow.”
To combat their self-professed, seasonal apprehension, a committee of North Liberty residents brainstormed a new event, aptly named Beat the Bitter and armed with the task to “get people out of their house, get them out of hibernation and get them interacting with their community in having some winter fun,” said Miller.
The inaugural, one-day event took place in February 2016 at Penn Meadows Park and included a 5K obstacle run, kickball tournament and adult celebration night at Red’s Ale House.
“It was really successful after only a month of promotion, registration and getting people involved,” Miller said. “People had a great time and good weather for the first year.”
As its committee grew to about a dozen people, Beat the Bitter snowballed into a larger event in February of this year.
“We added a Friday night component, kept the same things we had on Saturday, but turned that adult evening into the Snuggie Bar Crawl,” she explained.
Beat the Bitter is set to raise the bar once again in 2018, adding community affiliated events and encouraging local businesses to get involved. As a result, the event will expand to an entire week, from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3.
The festival offers more than 50 individual events, including special events at many North Liberty businesses. It begins with the Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge on Sunday, Jan. 28, hosted by the North Liberty Police Department to support Falco, their newest canine officer.
“Our core events that the committee’s organizing still take place on Fire & Ice Friday, with tons of free activities for people of all ages,” Miller noted.
Festivities will start in the afternoon with horse-drawn carriage rides, ice carving, a meet-and-greet with literary characters, a community bonfire, fire baton performance, tug of war, learning to curl and more on tap. This culminates in a fireworks show at 7 p.m., catering to young families who can’t stay out late.
Winter Games Saturday begins with the annual 5K-ish Obstacle Run at 9 a.m. and a variety of tournaments, including Kick Winter in the Snow Ball for kickball, the Freeze Your Bags Off for cornhole, as well as curling and broomball. Games will require registration.
Saturday evening is given over to the second annual Snuggie Crawl, an evening out with friends and neighbors. Registration includes an embroidered Beat the Bitter Snuggie, a trolley to take crawlers to stops at BeerBurger, J&A Tap, Adelita’s, Reds Alehouse, Rocky O’Brien’s and Tin Roost, as well as access to specials, games and activities at each establishment.
But the week is also filled with affiliated offerings, including Norse-inspired gaming at Geek City Games, a sip-and-paint night at Big Picture Gallery & Studio, a beer-and-food pairing dinner at Reds Alehouse, snow volleyball at J&A Tap, special classes and a daddy-daughter prom with Debut Dance, a hearty chili dinner with the local Boy Scouts, fat tire bikes with Sugar Bottom Bikes, as well as special North Liberty Community Library programming.
“February is awesome– something to look forward to after the holidays,” Miller exclaimed.
One of the most exciting inclusions of the season, however, begins far earlier than the planned week of festivities.
“The whole winter season, as weather allows, will be our outdoor ice rink at Penn Meadows Park, which is another addition to this year that we’re really excited about,” Miller announced.
The rink, to be located at the Penn Meadows Park tennis courts, is an initiative from Beat the Bitter in partnership with the City of North Liberty. They have split the cost of providing the rink and plan to have it each winter season moving forward. The partnership will provide the financing to make the temporary rink possible as well as an inventory of skates for people to check out for free from the recreation center.
Weather permitting, the rink will be open to the public from Dec. 13 through March 31, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will feature coin-operated lighting for evening skaters.
“This will be the most organized type of ice rink that North Liberty has had, with the skate options and a more permanent structure that will last through the season,” Miller said.
To meet the growing popularity of the annual festivities, registration for Beat the Bitter opened almost three weeks earlier than last year.
“We encourage people to register early. We have a price increase starting on Jan. 2 for activities that require registration, to provide an incentive to sign up before the first of the year,” Miller said. Registration for the core events will remain open until Thursday, Feb. 1, or until the events are filled.
“We do expect everything to fill up,” she added. “Our Snuggie Bar Crawl has already sold out; our kickball tournament sells out every year; we got really close to filling up the 5K last year.”
A full schedule of events can be found at beatthebitter.com. Beat the Bitter organizers also are seeking volunteers to help run the events. Those interested can email beatthebitternl@gmail.com.