Nearly 150 people braved the frigid temperatures on Sunday afternoon to take a plunge in Henning's Pond in Albrightsville.
The parking lot began filling up with participants and spectators by mid-morning for the 1 p.m. start of the 13th annual Pocono Polar Bear Plunge. The costumes of the jumpers ranged from a man dressed like Batman, who wore shocking neon green shorts and boots, to Pippi Longstocking, who donned a red wig with upturned pigtails.
While the water was a "toasty" 32 degrees, the air temperature was only 26 degrees and the wind was blowing steadily, making it feel even colder.
For 13 years, volunteers have prepared a plunging site for swimmers who brave the cold water over Presidents Day weekend, all for a good cause and an opportunity to brag about the experience. After their swim, participants are invited back to Robert Christian's Restaurant, Route 940, Pocono Lake, for free food and camaraderie.
This year funds raised during the event were donated to the Make a Wish foundation.
The ice wasn't very thick (only three to four inches), and organizers had a difficult time convincing spectators that they were better off on the shore taking photographs. The ice eventually began cracking, but still spectators didn't heed the warning until five plungers and two volunteers had an unexpected wet experience.
The volunteers were undaunted after getting wet in full winter gear and the swimmers scurried to stand up, with some of the plungers helping volunteers out of the water and back onto the ice. Since the water was only a few feet deep near the break, there wasn't any emergency help needed, but the spectators stayed off the ice for the rest of the event.
By the time the ice broke, about 100 plungers had made their swim with the remainder waiting for the volunteers to find a new launch site and exit site for the ladder because the other launch/exit location was an iceberg in the open water.
For Michael J. O'Brien, of Glenside, it was his first jump.
"It was peer pressure," said O'Brien, who jumped with his uncles, Connell, Kevin and Greg O'Brien. "I've never seen so many people making so many bad decisions," he added.
For Greg O'Brien, he jumped back-to-back. He took part in a swim at Sea Isle in New Jersey on Saturday. The three O'Brien brothers have been jumping together for the past six or seven years.
There were a few youngsters jumping, which was approved by the organizers as long as their parents signed a permission slip. Among those under 18 years old were Loren Coyle, 10, and her sister, Victoria Coyle, 13, who jumped with their father, Brian Coyle, the infamous Batman. Also jumping with the Coyles was their friend, Cassidy Campanella, 12.
"I saw my dad doing it and it looked like fun," said Loren Coyle. She was dressed as a ballerina, with a frilly tutu around her waist.
George Chiger, 33, said he finds the jump refreshing.
"I've been doing this for the last seven to eight years," said Chiger, who jumped seven times last year. This year's cold temperatures held him to only jumping four times.
Volunteer Fred Suter remembers the first year the event was held.
"We held it at Glenside and we didn't have a big enough area for the swimmers," said Suter. "The ice was so thick. We were worried that people would get under the ice.
Suter said that only seven people jumped that first year. The second year and from then on, the event has been held at Henning's Pond.
Joe Rhein was the volunteer who slid in the ice last year, but this year he knew to stay back from the action.
This year's unexpected plungers were Chuck Clark and Ed Kingsland, who shook off the experience.
"It wasn't a big deal," said Kingsland. "It was only a few feet deep."
Chiger's persistence in being the plunger with the most jumps paid off. He was named the "King" of the Pocono Polar Bear Plunge. Named the "Queen" was Dana Suter. They were crowned at Robert Christians Restaurant following the plunge.
"This had to be the coldest year for me," said Dana Suter.
"I would say this was one of the coldest years," said George Chiger. "I think there have been years it was colder. I'd say this was the third coldest year.
"It's fun. I like it. It takes the aches and pains away."
The annual event is organized by a committee led by Bob Kasper.