Plunging into the new year

100 participate in icy New Year ritual

Posted: Sunday, January 03, 2010

With temperatures around 15 degrees on Friday, Miles Kiefer had a good reason to jump into the icy water of Auke Bay.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"Because my friends are crazy, so I am crazy too!" he said, and his friends agreed.

Kiefer was one of more than 100 people participating in this year's Polar Dip, held Friday at Auke Bay Recreation Area.

The dip began 17 years ago, when Mary Bardone, Bill Platte and daughter, Piper, Len Cedar and daughter, Evy, and Barbara Greening finished day of skiing at Eaglecrest Ski Area on New Year's Eve. The sun was out and the skiing had been so great that they decided to celebrate the last day of the year with a plunge into the frigid water.

"We thought it was so much fun that we decided to do it again the next day," Greening said. "We called some friends and went to Auke Lake Rec. Evy was only 4 and Piper 10. We probably had just a dozen people total."

The event has now grown quite a bit since then, and the participants still enjoy every moment.

"We're from New Jersey and we always wanted to (participate)," Nicolle Dameiro said. "What better place than Alaska?"

Nolan Davis was at a masquerade party on New Year's Eve and decided to wear his costume for the Polar Dip as well.

"It's the new year," Davis said. "This is my fourth year doing it and I still don't know why. I'm trying to start a new tradition, a costumed Polar Dip."

Wrapped in a huge beach towel with friends, Tiana Massey said she participates "because it is just fun. I've done it twice before."

Paper awards drawn by Lelan Tomlinson of Vancouver, Wash., who participates in the Juneau dip each year, are given to the dippers. Rosie Jones and friend, Reece, colored the awards.

"Everyone that goes in gets an award," Greening said. "Even if they only went in up to their knees. The spirit there is so amazing; everyone leaves with a smile on their face. It's just such a great way to start the year."

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