New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge


By Jocelynn Blacker

It was a frigid and blustery day for the Polar Bears participating in this year’s New Year’s Day dip. A strong wind blew off Lake Erie as huddled spectators watched the swimmers line up and take instruction from Lead Polar Bear Scotty MacDonald.
“The water is warm! The water is warm! The water is warm,” they called out in a chant to pump up the readying Polar Bears.
Then they were off, crashing into the strong and painfully cold waves as tugboats sounded their horns just off shore. Cheers from the crowd mixed with shocked exclamations from swimmers, all in good fun to welcome a new year and new decade.
For some, the Polar Bear Dip is a long-standing tradition.

At left: There was no ice on the lake this year but the water was still freezing cold as this large group took their New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip at 1:00 p.m.                                  Photo by John Becht.

“I usually bring out a team, but couldn’t convince them to come out today,” said Dale Renout, the minister from Rawdon Street Baptist Church in Brantford. “I’ve come out for all but two years of the last ten.”
For others the Polar Bear Dip is an exciting way to celebrate personal growth.
“2020 is for new beginnings, this is a good way to ring in the New Year. It’s cleansing and purging. A great way to get back into nature,” said Sharon Lees of Caledonia who decided to take the opportunity for personal reflection after a separation. Sharon was accompanied by her niece Ocean Lee, who cheered from the sidelines.
Holly Biggs and mother Carrie from Somerset, England decided to take the plunge to celebrate Carrie’s recovery.
“I’m cancer free now, I’m going to live my life to the fullest,” said Carrie Biggs, a survivor of breast cancer.
For most, it’s a fun thrill.
“It’s fun and a great way to start the New Year,” said Sherilyn Delves of Hamilton. “Just the company, everybody is in it to have fun. And, you get to watch the faces as everybody is running out. It’s a lot of joy.” Sherilyn decided to share the joy this year with her friend Jewels Tower from York. This will be Sherilyn’s seventh or eighth Polar Bear Dip.
“It’s just fun! A great way to start off the New Year,” beamed Julia Samson, 15, from Burford. She and her sister Kate and friend Alex Harris came out to take the plunge.
The Polar Bear Dip has been a New Year’s Day tradition for Port Dover since 1984.
Some years participants had to climb over mounds of snow and ice or plunge into small openings in the ice. There was no ice or snow on the beach but it was still very cold.
For community fundraising, spectators donated $850.00 in support for Port Dover Minor Ball.

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