About 600 people took a brisk swim at Long Lake at 1 p.m. Tuesday as part of Lacey’s annual Polar Bear Plunge.
“It’s a new year — new beginning,” said Danielle Rivers, 26, of Lacey.
“You’re jumping off 2012, and you’re jumping in 2013,” added her friend Jonathan Williams, 27, of Olympia.
The event has been a South Sound tradition for 28 years, according to organizer Mary Coppin, a recreation supervisor with the City of Lacey. It used to be held at Capitol Lake in Olympia and moved to Lacey six years ago.
“It’s a ritual that actually occurs all over the world,” Coppin said. “It signifies new beginnings and a new start.”
In fact, the fifth annual Squaxin Community Salish Sea Plunge took place about two hours earlier at the Arcadia Point Public Boat ramp on Puget Sound, north of Olympia. Twenty-two people jumped into Puget Sound, and the water temperature was 36 degrees there, said organizer Joseph Peters.
“I would say just as many were there to watch,” he said. (For photos from the Salish Sea Plunge,
Crowds began arriving at the Lacey event about noon. Participants were encouraged to warm up before the swim with some hot cocoa and coffee, or stand near one of the campfires at the park.
Ruby Adams of Olympia said the event helped support her New Year’s resolution “to have a good time and live life to its fullest.”
Kelly Cannon, 43, of Lacey, said she wanted to participate in the plunge “to show 2013 who’s boss.”
Many people wore costumes for the event, including Meadows Elementary School PE teacher Matt Tuttle, who donned a mask and cape and took the alias of Captain Polar Bear for the day.
His wife, Angie Farley, 38, of Olympia, wore a tutu, a pair of fairy wings and gloves with her swimsuit.
“We both swim a lot, and it was something we hadn’t done yet,” said Tuttle, 36.
“It seemed like a good idea to start off the year with something invigorating,” Farley added.
Some people jumped in the water, swam to the shore and stood in line for a second dip. Others quickly got out of the water, which was 43 degrees, organizers said.
Neva Barton, 49, of Lacey, painted the words “Courage” and “Strength” on her face. She said the words were reminders to not back out of the event; they also describe the way she plans to tackle 2013, Barton said.
She was proud that her 8-year-old son Jaxon Landgraf did the Polar Bear Plunge alongside of her.
“It was very exhilarating and exciting,” Barton said. “We made a commitment … and we stuck to it.”