Thousands start the year with a splash at Milwaukee's annual Polar Plunge

NOW: Thousands start the year with a splash at Milwaukee’s annual Polar Plunge

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A decades old tradition returns to Milwaukee on New Years Day. The annual Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach drew hundreds of people to the shore to take a splash in Lake Michigan.

For many people, it's a tradition. Some do it every year and make it a family affair, arriving early to set up camp with tents and bonfires. People take the plunge in bathing suits, some in full costumes and all for different reasons.

"It was a bucket list thing. I've always wanted to do it so today I decided to do it, start the new year right," said Trevor Williams, a first timer.

Claire Houlihan is also plunging for the first time. She was excited and said she felt rejuvenated afterwards. "I think I just wanted to start the new year off with a new tradition and I think I might do this every year now," she said.

The free non-sponsored event has been held for more than 20 years. Safety tips are supplied ahead of time and paramedics and firefighters are nearby in case someone needs help. "It was cold but honestly I think it's worth it, you know, for the experience," said Jason Martinez.

While everyone agreed it was cold with temperatures in the low 30s, other who have been doing this for years said they've plunged on much colder days than this.

Delynn Bremer has been doing the Polar Plunge for the past 24 years. She remembers the first time she participated. "There was only like 10 people down here at the time and I had Vaseline on my feet, and I just did it for a good cause to make a new year goal," she said.

This year Bremer is back and participating with a different motivation. This year, she's plunging in honor of her late sister, who passed away from Ovarian cancer last year this time. "I'm doing it for my sister in heaven and everything and she's looking down. She used to do it all the time too," she said.

There were also New Year's Day Polar Plunges held in Oconomowoc and Sheboygan. Another Polar Plunge is schedule for Feb. 24 in Brookfield, benefiting the Wisconsin Special Olympics. There is a registration process for this event. Click here for more info.

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