There was no sunshine, sunscreen or umbrellas to be seen at Sun-Oka Beach on New Year’s Day, but there were plenty of people.
Approximately 75 participants took the plunge into the icy water for the 32nd Annual Kinsmen Club Polar Bear Dip, while a crowd of about 200 people cheered them on.
According to the Environment Canada weather information for our area, the air temperature was -2 C. at noon, with the wind-chill making it feel like -6 C. As a result, people were as quick to run out of the water as they were to run in, eager to dry off and warm themselves by the fires.
Seven year old Ben Ruttan, who was named the youngest participant, said it was “horrible” and not something he would ever do again.
Participating in the dip for the second time, 10 year old Emily Jell said it was “really cold.”
Tom Reilly agreed with this assessment.
“When you dive in and go under the water it is damn cold I’ll tell you,” he said.
Reilly, 83, was the oldest person taking part in the polar bear dip and he thinks that he may do it again. He did it this year because his wife thought he couldn’t.
“He said he was going to do it and I said ‘you’re crazy’,” explained Amandah Reilly.
Many other people on the beach said that they take part in the event year after year.
“I’ve done it five or six times now,” said Alan Messier. “It’s been something I do and I encourage others to do. It’s a good way to bring in the New Year.”
Jennifer Ganzeveld said ever since she split up with her husband six years ago this is how she starts her year.
“I jump in the lake and renew and refresh. I love it,” she said.
For Cherish Anderson and her daughter Kaylee, it has become somewhat of a family tradition and they were joined this year by other family and friends.
“Five years ago she (Kaylee) decided she wanted to dip her toes in, so we’ve been doing it every year since,” said Anderson. “It’s a great way to start the year.”
For the Summerland Kinsmen Club the Polar Bear Dip has also become a tradition. They have been hosting the event for 32 years, making sure it is done safely. They light warming fires and serve hot dogs, hot chocolate and give out T-shirts, all by donation.
Blair Gillingham, President of the club said any money the club raises through their efforts during the year, goes right back into the community.
“We’re building parks, upgrading running tracks around Dale Meadows and we have projects in mind for the future,” he said. “We want to get some kind of fitness equipment built into the parks.”
By the sound of things, it seems there will be no shortage of people willing to come out again next year to support this popular event.