GAINESVILLE - Ninety-two swimmers showed up in the cold wet rain to get wet during the 16th Annual Polar Bear Swim held at the Olympic Venue on New Year's Day.
The steady rain did not discourage them at this first of the year event hosted annually by the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. Veteran Polar Bear diver Tom Kupec came from Cumming with his family to jump into the 58 degree water.
"You've got to start the year doing something silly and it's a good family tradition for us," Kupec said.
Kupec added he used to do the Polar Bear Swim in upstate New York. His son joined him for the Lake Lanier swim while his daughter jumped in up in New York. Chad Kupec won the 'best splash' category.
The Polar Bear Swim has never been rained out. Event coordinator Chris Potter, who jumped in himself, said the water was colder than he expected but at least it was not freezing.
"We actually had a surprisingly good turnout," Potter said. "I suppose the weather could be a lot worse on January 1st, it could be a lot colder."
The event was held on the Olympic Venue side of Clarks Bridge Park because of the low lake level.
"It's unfortunate but we had to move the docks over here," Potter added. "On the other side by the boat houses it was just too low."
The event was emceed by long time Polar Bear and Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann, who was the first to jump in. After their dive swimmers headed directly to hot tubs provided by LCKC, then onto the club house across the road for hot chili and a desert and an event T-shirt.
Dan Decraene from Atlanta, his daughter Nicole and her friend Courtney Woodside warmed up in the hot tub after their Polar Bear Plunge. The Decraenes won the best costume competition with Courtney & Nicole dressed as M & M's. LCKC listed 'Greg and Robert' as the best divers.
Potter said the Swim is one of his club's biggest money making events.