Dozens take annual New Year's Day dip

More than 60 people braved frigid waters to take part in the traditional plunge.

More than 60 people braved frigid waters to take part in the traditional plunge.

January 02, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

WILLIAMSPORT - Jessica Roney fantasized about her hot tub while she splashed into the chilly waters of the Potomac River Wednesday, joining dozens of other "polar bears" in the 11th annual New Year's Day plunge.

"All I thought about was going to the hot tub," Roney said as she and boyfriend George Miller shivered in bathrobes after a quick dunk in the water.

Although it was raining, about 400 people lined the banks of Riverbottom Park to watch more than 60 people take a dip in the river. Spectators huddled under umbrellas with towels and warm clothes ready for their daring friends and loved ones.


For the first time in three years the water wasn't coated with ice and temperatures were relatively warm, in the low 40s. Miller, of Nova, Pa., said it didn't make a difference.

"Once you get out there it's all the same - you're numb all over," he said.

The couple's next stop was Roney's Williamsport home, where her hot tub awaited.

Miller has been taking the plunge for four years. Roney joined him for the second time Wednesday.

Rocky Bishop Sr. and his three sons took their first dunk into the chilly water Wednesday and decided it will become a family tradition.

"I'm old enough to know better," said Bishop, 43, of Clear Spring.

But he and his sons, Rocky Jr., 24, Cory, 18, and Kelly, 17, agreed they'll do it again.

Nicole Hartman, 21, of Clear Spring, talked three of her close friends into joining her Wednesday.

"You get in, sit on your butt, dunk your head and run," said Hartman, who participated for the third time Wednesday.

Her friends were questioning the wisdom of their decision to join her before jumping in.

"I think I lost my mind. It sounded like a better idea until I got our here," said Krista Bibbee, 20, of Hagerstown.

She was joined by Amber Gorsuch, 12, and Erin Lesner, 15, both of Hagerstown, who were also participating for the first time.

Other newcomers included father and son Sam and Shane Seibert, who decided on a whim Wednesday morning to drive out to Riverbottom Park.

"It's a family tradition starting this year," Sam Seibert, 50, of Hagerstown, said while he and Shane stood under an umbrella waiting for the stroke of noon.

"We decided to be spontaneous and do something exciting," said Shane Seibert, 27, of Hagerstown.

Betty Seibert was also along to videotape her husband and son so there would be proof of their folly.

Just before noon, the throng of "polar bears" began counting down the seconds and rushed toward the river screaming. The screams got louder as they hit the water.

The annual plunge began in 1992. The number of participants has grown steadily since then.

Last year, about 60 people earned the nickname "polar bear," chosen in honor of the animal that swims in icy waters.

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