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'This is Crazy': 26th Annual Polar Bear Dip Event is Tuesday

The annual event takes place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with weather forecasts predicting a high of 19 degrees.

"Dude, this is crazy."

That's what one participant — and likely many others as well as spectators in the crowd — said at the annual Polar Bear Dip on New Year's Day (2012) in Port Washington while watching hundreds plunge into the frigid Lake Michigan for no reason other than to celebrate the New Year.

In it's 26th year, the annual event began in 1987 when local resident John Brinovec decided that he had to do something different after his retirement from his railroading job.

"Everyone was bicycling or running. I just thought, 'I've got to do something strange,'" he said.

So in 1987, the first dip began with him and two others. It has since drawn crowds of 200 or more to Lake Michigan each year. Some people only put their toes in, but Brinovec insisted "to become a full Polar Bear, you have to go completely under."

Brinovec died in October 2011 after doing the plunge until he was 82.

  • Video: More than 100 People Plunge into Lake to Start 2012

The fire department and rescue teams are on hand at the event as a safety precaution, with bone-chillingly cold temperatures in years past.

"One year, they had to crack the ice to jump in," said Kathy Tank, executive director of Port Washington Tourism Council, who, like many, has only joined the event as a spectator.

New Year's Day is projected to have a high of 19 degrees, according to the National Weather Service forecast on Thursday night. The dip takes place at 2 p.m. at the east end of Jackson Street near New Port Shores.

Are you planning to participate or attend Tuesday's dip?

Add your photos and video to this article after the event.

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