Juneauites flocked, flounced and splashed into the frigid ocean water Wednesday afternoon to welcome 2020 through chattering teeth with Juneau’s annual Polar Bear Dip.
Nearly 100 people turned out to the event, held at Auke Bay Recreation Area. Some participants wore costumes, while others eschewed fancy outerwear for simple bathing suits. Some came with families, friends and dogs, all to start the new year in the cold water.
The informal event started at 1 p.m., and saw the participants race across the stony beach into the water. People plunged into the water, a balmy 41 degrees, as snow began to fall.
“Once you get your breathing under control, you’re fine,” Cheryl Fellman said. “This is our eighth year doing this. My daughter and I have done it since she was 5.”
While many plungers dove in and ran out just as quickly, some went for the long haul. Fellman was the last man standing, idly doing laps as the rest of the crowd dried off and hurriedly put on dry clothes. She remained in the water for more than six minutes.
Members of the Capital City Fire/Rescue were in attendance as a precaution, said Capt. Jayme Johns, leader of the Rope and Water Rescue Team. CCFR has been attending for four years now, Johns said. Most of the assistance they’re called upon to provide is for the shock of hitting the freezing water or stubbed toes.
“We’re here to see the expressions as they come out of the water,” Johns laughed.
Some people come prepared better than others, though. Katy Giorgio arrived with a towable sauna trailer.
“We built the sauna a few years ago,” Giorgio said. “This is the first time we’ve taken it to the plunge.”
Courtney Pegus took a child-sized stuffed Kermit the Frog in with him. Pegus has come to the plunge for years.
“I take him on adventures all over the country,” Pegus said. He hopes to sail the Arctic Circle with Kermit soon.
While it was the first time for many, including three-quarters of the Empire’s newsroom, it’s a more regular event for many.
“Oh, I’ve been twice,” Anthony Kalk said. “I’m just a masochist.”
Others have been attending for years, steadfast attendees of the most bracing way to kick off the new year.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.