Hundreds take a dip in Lake Michigan for annual Polar Plunge

People waiting to jump into Lake Michigan January 1, 2017. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

JACKSONPORT (WLUK) -- You could say the 31st annual Polar Plunge is winter tradition that most certainly gets a lot of attention.

The Door County ritual has been going, since the 1980s,

When it comes to the event, some were decked out as a camel, a Santa Claus and even a light blue unicorn. The Baudhuin sisters from Brussels were ready to go into Lake Michigan.

"I'm the only crazy repeater. The other two are newbies at this," said Erin Baudhuin.

"Why jump in today? Because it's New Year's, and you got to start the New Year's fresh, huh," questioned Brigette Baudhuin.

"I think they're all crazy. But obviously they're my sisters, so I got to come along for moral support," said Cora Baudhuin.

An estimated 800 people or polar bears as they're called took the plunge. Another thousand people watched it all from shore.

"The Packers were on our side. The Packers must love the polar bears, moving their game to 7:30. and it would have cost us 200-300 fans, had the game not been moved," said Joe Jarosh who took a dip in the lake.

Jarosh's son J.R. was the original polar bear, first jumping in, in 1986.

"Of all of the swims, this will be 31. This is one maybe I'm most excited about. Just being able to go with my dad, and my twin daughters. So to have three generations in the lake at the same time, it will be a special memory," he said.

"Three, two, one," Joe Jarosh said.

The mad dash was on. Polar bears funneled through icy lanes carved away from the shoreline. Emergency workers were on scene in case anyone had trouble.

The conditions aren't as great as we had last year, so there's a lot of moving snow, and making sure people don't slip and cut themselves, hurt themselves," said Zack DeFere with Jacksonport Fire Department.

In a matter of minutes, it was all over, and people began to scamper back to the security of the shoreline. The Baudhuin sisters made it safe and sound.

"The shock value is there, but then after you're in the water, on your way out, it's exhilarating. Would you do it again? Absolutely. In a heartbeat," Brigette Baudhuin said.

"It was good, I could say, cross it off my bucket list. I've done it once, no need to do it again," Cora Baudhuin said.

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate the new year. Kind of a baptism to start the new year. If you can do this, you can do anything the rest of the year, no problem," Jon Jarosh said.

Polar bears get a certificate of participation, and perhaps a little frostbite as well; it's only 364 more days until they do it all over again.

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