JACKSONPORT, WI (December 18, 2015) – The Jacksonport Polar Bear Club is preparing to take their annual plunge into Lake Michigan for the 30th time at 12 noon on January 1, 2016.
For the past twenty-nine years the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club has celebrated the New Year by going for an icy dip into Lake Michigan at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport along Door County Wisconsin’s eastern coast. An estimated 500 or more swimmers are expected to take the plunge during the group’s 30th annual event, which puts this polar bear swim among some of the largest in the country.
The club first started in Jacksonport in 1986 with one swimmer, J.R. Jarosh, and it wasn't until 1989 that the number tripled from one to three swimmers. The club has seen substantial growth since then, and in 2010 an estimated 900 swimmers went in. Last year's swim attracted an estimated 500 swimmers, with several thousand bundled up spectators there to witness the event and cheer on the participants.
“It’s simply amazing how the event has grown over the years,” said club founder J.R. Jarosh, who was 14 years old the first year he went in back in 1986. “To see how so many people have embraced the opportunity to battle the elements and celebrate the new year by going for a dip, it’s great,” he said.
Jarosh said to celebrate the 30th anniversary swim, “we are encouraging all participants to dig through their closets or visit a thrift shop to come up with some sort of formal wear costume,” he said. “An old bridesmaid dress, prom dress, wedding dress, tuxedo or an old suit, perhaps. It should make an already fun and funny event even better.” Jarosh added that while costumes are encouraged, they are not required.
Festivities at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport will begin around 10:30 AM on New Year's Day. Registration for all swimmers will take place in the park shelter closest to the lake. While the event is free, all swimmers are asked to sign a liability release form before participating in the event. Forms will be available at the registration pavilion or swimmers can download the form and fill it out ahead of time at JacksonportPolarBearClub.com and simply drop it off the day of the event.
The swim will be held precisely at 12 noon central time, with the crowd favorite 10 second countdown preceding a massive influx of swimmers into the lake. Spectators are asked to stay outside of the yellow taped areas which are designated for swimmers only.
A variety of Jacksonport Polar Bear Club merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies and other items will be available for purchase at the registration pavilion. Free Jacksonport Polar Bear certificates of achievement will also be available to all swimmers when they register.
Participants and spectators are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Feed My People, a local Door County food pantry, which will be accepting food and cash donations near the registration pavilion.