An icy way to start the New Year in Summerland

Even though temperatures were well below freezing, there was no shortage of brave souls participating in the annual Polar Bear Dip

Bell the French bulldog

Bell the French bulldog

Even though temperatures were well below freezing, there was no shortage of brave souls participating in the Summerland Kinsmen Club’s 31st Annual Polar Bear Dip at Sun-Oka beach on New Year’s Day.

According to club president Mike Petkau, there were close to 350 spectators and approximately 100 “dippers” that took the plunge into the icy waters.

“I’m hoping I don’t die today,” said Aleah Nesdoly, who was taking part for the very first time “just for the fun of it.”

Shivering, wrapped in a towel and warming himself by one of the fires, Colin MacKay said, “It was cold, that’s all I can say.”

Martina Agur, participating for the third time described the experience as “numbing.”

“I think it’s fun to do. It kind of wakes you up and energizes you,” she said, adding some advice for those considering the challenge next year. “Wear shoes. Your feet will thank you.”

For Bev Krieger and her family the event has become somewhat of a tradition.

“We come down every year, kids, girlfriends, my niece and nephew. My sister comes from Prince George. We’ve been doing it for 20 years,” she said.

“I’m sixty now and I’m going to keep doing it until I’m seventy.”

Entering the water held special significance for Brianna Smith. “My grandpa and I actually said we were going to do it every year and we never did. We would always come down and watch everybody go in,” she said.

“He passed away in March, so I decided to do it this year for him.”

Mayor Peter Waterman was at the event as a spectator and was pleased to see such a large gathering.

“I think this is the biggest attendance we’ve had in a number of years,” he said. “Cars are lined up well outside the gates.”

Perhaps one of the reasons for such success was due to some changes the Kinsmen Club put into place.

“We hoped to generate more income this year,” said Petkau. “We’ve advertised more and updated our logos.”

Petkau also said that this year there was a suggested price for the amount of the donation given for a t-shirt, hot dog or hot chocolate.

All of the monies raised from the event go towards local needs, parks and playgrounds.

“Anything that needs to be done in the community…if there is a need we will try and fill it,” Petkau said.

Although she is not sure if she will ever do it again, Nesdoly did survive her dip into the near freezing water of Okanagan Lake. The outside air temperature, according to Environment Canada, was at -7 C at noon on New Year’s Day.