Polar plungers

Ready for the polar plungersSunday morning, thousands of Chicagoans gathered at North Avenue Beach for the Polar Plunge.  I couldn’t resist making the scene.  I had to see the polar plungers, the people bold and crazy enough to submerge themselves in Lake Michigan’s wintry waters.

Polar plungers (Chicago)The air temperature was about 10 degrees.

Gathering for the plunge at Chicago's North Avenue Beach.Hurrying toward the event, I took a picture of the distant scene, where a crowd of several thousand was already forming.  Some 3,000 people were going in.  A glance told me I would be too late to see celebrity plunger Jimmy Fallon, or Mayor Emanuel, who’d egged him on.

Spectators by the beach house before the Polar Plunge.The approach to the plunge was lined with tents, costume vendors, coffee vendors, emergency vehicles, and families and friends lined up to watch their loved ones go in.

The plunge is a charitable event whose proceeds benefit the Special Olympics.

spectatorsThe spectators, with their knit hats and enthusiasm, made for good people-watching.

chicagofireBecause the Lake is completely frozen near the shore, city personnel had cut a big hole in the ice to be used for the plunge.

Spectators hoping to see the Polar Plunge lined the North Avenue beachBleachers had been set up perpendicular to the Lake, making it very difficult to see the plungers while they were in the water.

The land of a 1000 captures (spectators photographing the plunge.)I was in the land of a thousand captures.  I couldn’t lift my camera high enough.

EMT worker with camera at the polar plungeThe emergency workers were numerous and well-equipped.

Early plungersWhile some plungers went for total immersion, others settled for going in up to their knees.  Here, a group of plungers that ComEd sponsored.

Polar plungers running up out of the water.Eventually, I realized that I could see better by moving toward the end of the corrals where the plungers were entering and exiting.

AfterwardIt was odd to see women genuinely dressed for the beach.

hubbubMany plungers wore next to nothing, which was smart, given that any clothing once soaked in the Lake would be unbearably cold.  I kinda liked the Woodstock-like vibe.

hard-hats-warm-heartsIt resembled a circus or a love-in, a strange and wintry morning carnival.

The revelry of the plungeThere was plenty of revelry.

An interviewer spoke with Thing 1 and Thing 2.

He went in all the way.  Definitely a king.

Post plunge
A tropical fantasy.  Family members milled around afterward, some looking worried.

Tutus, wool caps and Roman helmets.Tutus, wool caps, and Roman helmets.

Viking plunger kinViking plunger-kin.  (Note her chic Blackhawks purse.)

plunger-in-blueA plunger in blue.

A massive day-glo plunger.

Polar Venus
Polar Venus.

Crowds arrivingCrowds were still arriving as I left the scene.  Plungers were still plunging; there was plenty to see.

A polar plunger walking home after Chicago's Polar Plunge
A plunger heading home. Her kind helped raise nearly $1 million for the Special Olympics that day.

* * *

As of March 6, over $976,000 has been raised, and some $24,000 is still needed.  Click here to donate.  On last reading, a “swimmyfallon” shirt could be had for donating just $20.

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