Brian Jacobson
Winter Scenes

The Polar Bear Plunge

By - Jan 4th, 2010 10:49 pm

It’s a local tradition that stretches back nearly a hundred years, at least as it was recognized in Milwaukee newspapers. What was once an isolated affair among close friends at Coney Island, NY, in 1903 has expanded to something of a national phenomenon. If there is a large, cold body of water in a major area then there will be people running for the shoreline on New Year’s Day and will be called “Polar Bears.”

Wisconsin has many “Plunge” events. Reportedly, this last part of the Polar Bear Plunge moniker started being used in recent years by marketing groups raising funds for the park system, some events for charity and a cycling event (the “Bipolar Plunge”) at South Shore Park. But the granddaddy event at Bradford Beach still draws out the most daredevils, with the number of participants during the hour after the opening horn reaching the thousands. The supporting spectactors tripled that attendance chart, making it one of the best-attended Polar Bear Plunges in recent years.

Some bathers seek a shock in the waters of the Great Lake, while others seek clarity or, kind of a baptism for a new perspective about the New Year. Some do it to mark it off a ‘bucket list,’ while yet others head to that beach “because it’s there.”

0 thoughts on “Winter Scenes: The Polar Bear Plunge”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Baptism is right. “Be gone, SATAN!”

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us