Seven stalwart Islanders became 2014 polar bears on New Year's Day. To reach the water, a 'swimming pool' had to be cut into the ice at Schoolhouse Beach. / Mary Marik/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
DOOR COUNTY — A pair of reports in the Door County Advocate recap this week's icy plunges in Door County.
Washington Island: Chilly weather scares off the polar bears
Mary Marik writes:
What happened to the Washington Island polar bears this year?
Maybe for an authentic polar bear experience they headed north to Canada, where Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories had a noon temperature on New Year’s Day of minus 40 degrees.
Or maybe they went south somewhere.
Maybe they just stayed home.
This year only seven brave and hardy Islanders took the annual polar bear plunge on Washington Island. This compares with two or three times that number who achieved polar-bear status last year.
This year Washington Harbor is a sheet of ice. Jens Hansen, organizer of the plunge, had to carve a “swimming pool” into the ice at Schoolhouse Beach so the Island polar bears could reach the water below.
Of course the plunge was over in seconds.
When summer comes to Schoolhouse Beach, visitors will have no thought of New Year’s Day, when a “pool” with a deck made of ice existed for only a few moments until it froze over again.
And only seven polar bears will remember that day’s freezing water.
Wait till next year!
Jacksonport: Not the most pleasant day for a swim
Joe and Sue Jarosh write:
Happy New Year to all! The new year came in with a hearty crowd of Jacksonport Polar Bear Club members as they gathered for their 28th annual plunge into Lake Michigan. The icy, cold, and bitter conditions had an effect on the numbers attending this year, and this was the coldest swim on record.
New Year’s Day dawned cloudy with an air temperature at noon of 2 degrees and water temperature of 31.6 degrees. Shoreline conditions were icy but were improved greatly by the efforts of the Jacksonport Fire Department as the crowd began to gather by 10:30 a.m. The registration/sales booth was busy by 11 a.m. as the crowd continued their trek to the shore. It is estimated that more than 300 went in the water and another 1,000 were there to observe the annual event.
The swim always brings a potpourri of polar bears together from all over the country. Every town in the surrounding area and much of the state of Wisconsin is represented, which includes many veteran Polar Bears who have made the swim part of their New Year’s Day ritual. Registration information shows that swimmers from 12 states attended. We even had Polar Bears this year who hailed from Venezuela and Albania. There was even a wedding proposal shortly before the swim took place (She said yes!).
Thanks to members of the Jacksonport Fire Department for their help. Fire Department members helped with setup and were on hand, some in their dry suits, as polar bears made their entrance and exit at the lakeshore. Thanks to Loud Entertainment DJ Service for providing a sound system and music for the swim activities again this year.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped with the registration and souvenir sales booth. Thanks to Culver’s for sending their mascot, Scoopie, to cheer on the crowd. Culver’s will donate part of their sales on Jan.1 to the Jacksonport Firefighters Association. Thanks also to participants who were generous in donating to Feed My People with food items and cash donations.