“Feel the cold:” Folks brave the elements and take the Polar Bear Plunge into Lake Michigan

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MILWAUKEE -- We've had a cold start for the first day of 2016. Especially if you're wearing nothing but shorts or a bikini and then add a lot of water! Of course, we're talking about the Polar Bear Plunge at Milwaukee's lakefront.

Polar Bear Plunge

Polar Bear Plunge

It was a carnival atmosphere and lots of costumes as hundreds gathered on Milwaukee's lakefront January 1st, to take a plunge into Lake Michigan.

"This is my 23rd year. This is our ceremonial baptismal ritual welcoming in the new year. Actually an extension of New Year's Eve from last night," said Daniel Kirkpatrick, Polar Bear Plunger.

It's a fun occasion but the Milwaukee Fire Department's Dive Rescue Team gets in the water early just in case.

Milwaukee Fire Department Dive Rescue Team

Milwaukee Fire Department Dive Rescue Team

"They'll be stationed out maybe 100 yards or so, spread out down shore essentially as lifeguards. So if somebody out there has an emergency, they'll be able to get to that person, keep them above water and then assist them back in," said Captian Christopher Schutte, Milwaukee Fire Department Dive Rescue Team director.

Polar Bear Plunge

Polar Bear Plunge

But these folks really aren't thinking about that. That's why the dive rescue team has to.

"Severely intoxicated individuals we'll probably keep an extra eye on, you know, because there is additional risk associated with that," said Schutte.

This New Year's Day tradition is not going away anytime soon. There's a new generation taking part.

"You just feel the coldness and you get out, especially nice when you have your parents and family to warm you up," said Lauren Kortbein, first time jumping in Polar Bear Plunge.

Photo Gallery:

And the old-timers keep coming back too -- like veteran plunger Helen Holzer.

"It's cold but I mean, it's not like you can't stand it. It's okay and coming out is better (laughs)," said Holzer.

"Off to a great start. There were no casualties that I noticed," said Dennis Wurch, Polar Bear Plunger.

The Milwaukee Polar Bear Plunge is a free event and non-sponsored.

 

4 comments

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  • Tillie

    Wow, that’s my friend Brenda’s mother! Amazing, I can’t even seeing myself as a spectator, too brrrr, cold!

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