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Plunging into 2012

Not-so-frigid temps and a new year mean the continuation of a metro-area tradition for some locals.

The 15th annual Polar Bear Swim took place Saturday afternoon with 134 people jumping into Lake Lanier to celebrate 2012.

A New Year’s tradition for Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club (LCKC), the event was held on New Year’s Eve because the New Year started on a Sunday. The change caused some concern for event coordinator Tim Watson who was pleased with the increase in participation from last year’s 110.

The 2011 air temperature was 50 degrees and included rain. Saturday’s statistics included 51 degree temperatures, 7 mph winds and plenty of sunshine.

George Wangemann opened the festivities with the ceremonial first jump. A 13 year veteran of Polar Bear Swim, Wangemann said that “it feels better when you get out.” He estimated the water temperature to be 45 to 46 degrees.

Each jumper was introduced to the crowd by Wangemann and gave their name, age, and contest for which they entered. This year two additional categories were added — “Youngest Jumper” and “Oldest Jumper” in addition to the traditional “Biggest Splash," “Best Form," and “Best Costume."

Cumming residents, twins Becca and Betsy Wade, 5, came clad in lady bug and bee costumes respectively. 

“I saw other people doing it and I wanted to do it,” explained Becca. “I’m excited,” she added.

After climbing out of Lake Lanier, jumpers warmed up in hot tubs provided by Georgia Spa Company of Buford. For their registration fee, jumpers received a commemorative t-shirt, dined on volunteer-served lunches, and drank hot chocolate or coffee. Proceeds from the event “are how we keep our club afloat,” shared Watson. 

Post-jump Becca Wade said, “it was cold.”

Sister Betsy echoed her sentiments with “it was nice and cold.” The two were unclear if they would participate next year. 

First time jumper Eli Ray, 10, of Dahlonega said, “it was fun at first, talking to people in line, but as soon as I hit the water it felt like someone threw a bucket of ice at me.” 

Ray enjoyed the hot tub and quickly warmed up.

This year’s winners were announced by Watson and Kevin Seitz, 2012 president as lunch was served.

“It was a great year,” said Seitz who added that the 2013 event will be held on New Year’s Day in keeping with tradition.

Winners included, Dick Young, 76, as “Oldest Jumper," Chris Hulsey aka Captain America for “Biggest Splash," Ed Myers and his sons were awarded “Best Costume” as they dressed as Father Time and New Year’s Babies. 

There was a three-way tie for “Youngest Jumper” between 5-year-olds Jake Parks, Becca Wade, and Betsy Wade. “Best Form” was awarded to co-winners Gavin Ross and Leap Frog Kids, Caleb, Cesar, and Dawson.

Visit the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club Web site for more information about the club or 2013 Polar Bear Swim.

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