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Chilly Tradition: hundreds welcome the new year by taking part in the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club Plunge

Posted at 3:43 PM, Jan 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-01 16:55:05-05
  • Video shows hundreds gathering at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport on New Year's Day to ccomplete th Polar Bear Plunge.
  • Every penny raised from the Jacksonport Polar Bear Plunge Club, Jarosh says will go towards the Jacksonport Fire Department.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Thirty-eight years ago, one Door County man started something that has become a tradition for many. I’m your Door County neighborhood reporter Katlyn Holt, with who will take over as the event leader in the future.

"First few years it was just me, so it is a lot more fun now with a few 100 other friends and revelers," said Jarosh.

J.R. Jarosh is the founder of the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club Plunge.

He says the day is something he looks forward to every year.

I’m never gonna run out of the tunnel at Lambeau but this is about as close to that feeling as most people can get," said Jarosh.

Jarosh has been taking this special plunge since 1986, when he says he had an idea to see if he could swim every month of the year.

But now, he is ready to pass on the behind the scenes planning to the group that helps to make sure all participants are safe.

"The fire department is on the beach. They're in the water. They really make a fun and safe event," said Jarosh.

Every penny raised from the event, Jarosh says will go towards the Jacksonport Fire Department.

Now they have the chance to help run this event to purchase specialty needs for the department.

“He's still president of the club,” said LeClair about Jarosh, “but we've worked with them for so long and we’ve normally been the beneficiary of any donations that they raise made, so it just kind of made sense that we would take a larger role in the event."

Nathan LeClair, the Fire Chief for the Jacksonport Fire Department, says they have about 15 firefighters between the land and the water to make sure swimmers receive any assistance they may need.

Some of the swimmers like the Toebe family from Algoma, were excited to take the plunge.

"We're going to do the polar plunge! We’re first timers so checking it off our bucket-list for 2024," said Jillaine Toebe.

Other plunge-takers like Zachary Smith, who's from Australia, also did the swim for the first time.

"W we don't get water this cold in Australia,” said smith, “I couldn't breathe for about five seconds."

For J.R., he says he plans to continue doing the plunge for as long as he can.

“Once you've done it once or twice it kind of gets in your blood and so I love that it continues to grow and be a great experience,” said Jarosh.

The Jacksonport Polar Bear Clubhas a website where you can see all the different states and countries, where participants are from.