North Beach, MD – The soggy, chilly year that was 2018 is gone and if the first of January is any indication, 2019 will be a big improvement. While it was overcast and windy, New Year’s Day in North Beach was a perfect day for a quick swim. Hundreds of people of ages, shapes and sizes packed the beach and then the bay as the annual Polar Bear Plunge was held in the early afternoon.

According to North Beach Waterfront Manager Richard Ball, the water temperature was 48 degrees just before 1 p.m. For the 2018 plunge the water temperature was a mere 23 degrees. The air temperature of 63 degrees was also a dramatic contrast to the 2018 event when the mercury was stuck well below the freezing mark.

All plungers had to sign a waiver acknowledging that they understood the risks and indemnifying the town. In addition to signing the waiver, plungers who paid the fee received a free event T-shirt and certificate. Proceeds from the entry fees collected went to Calvert Relay for Life. The organization, which raises money on behalf of the American Cancer Society, is moving their annual event to North Beach this spring. “They [Relay for Life} were looking for a new home,” said North Beach Mayor Mike Benton, who indicated the organization and town officials agreed North Beach would be a great venue for the annual relay. Benton said the 2019 Relay for Life is scheduled for May 18.

Benton and Town Councilman Mickey Hummel, both veteran plungers, dove into the Chesapeake with the other participants. In addition to Benton and Hummel, several others who have made the Polar Bear Plunge a New Year’s Day tradition took a quick dip before drying off and gathering around a warm fire with a hot drink on the north side of the beach.

There were also many first-time plungers participating. “It was good,” said Teresa Lindsay, who was a member of a group from Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Owings who signed up for the plunge under the team name “Be Not Afraid” After her swim, Lindsay declared, “I don’t feel cold anymore.”
Another group member, Julie O’Keefe, affirmed, “God was watching out for us.”

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