The Reid Park Zoo is giving new meaning to the term “polar bear plunge.”

Once just a chilly dip that daring people took in the dead of winter, the plunge soon will incorporate actual polar bears — or at least their habitats.

This winter, 10 humans will enter the zoo’s polar bear night house, step out in front of the bears’ viewing windows and then jump into their empty pool. They will walk away with T-shirts proclaiming they took the plunge.

The experience is one of many up for grabs at Zoocson — Feast with the Beasts, an event designed to raise money for zoo exhibits, educational outreach and animal-related expenses.

“We’re Tucson, we don’t get a lot of snow,” said Chris Mayer, the Tucson Zoological Society’s events director. “But we do have actual polar bears.”

The Zoocson event is slated for Saturday, Oct. 11. It will include food, live entertainment and an auction of items and experiences including an African safari for two. The polar bear plunge is not an auction item. It goes for $300 a head and takes place in November.

At 5:30 p.m., VIP guests will gather for Zoocson in the Conservation Learning Center, where they will sample food from select Tucson restaurants, have a small animal encounter and take a shot at select auction items not available to general-admission guests. VIP tickets are $100.

At 6:30 p.m., all other guests — those paying $75 for their tickets — will stream into the zoo for a general live and silent auction, cocktails and food samples from 21 Tucson restaurants to music from Tucson High School’s Jovert Steel Drum Band. Final auction bids at 8 p.m. will culminate with dessert, coffee and music from The Undercover Band.

For a fund-raising event, Mayer said Zoocson has a certain flair.

“You’re in the zoo, which is one of the most luscious areas in town with huge stands of bamboo and big trees, and it’s a beautiful evening,” he said.

Not only that, the zoo animals have the option of creeping out of their night houses and joining the party.

“How many charity events can you go to and maybe see a tiger?” Mayer said.

And how many chances do you have to buy a center-stage spot in a polar bear pool?

For more information, call 881-4753.

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