Was that the Mayor of Southampton dressed up as KISS?
Yes. Yes, it was.
And this only can mean one thing, The Southampton Polar Bear Plunge at Coopers Beach is taking place. Mayor Mark Epley showed up at the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday morning flanked by his two sons and a friend all dressed up as the band. The event drew hundreds of people to the beach, although it did look noticeably smaller than it did last year.
On the beach, up high on the dune and off to the east side were four men dressed in full Revolutionary War era uniforms and armed with a cannon that they would fire to signal plungers into the ocean. The water was 53 degrees, and there were many costumes on the beach, including a man dressed in drag, several Santa Clauses and a red M&M. The entire event is done to raise money for the Human Resources of the Hamptons charity.
The Southampton Fire Department, as well as members of the Southampton Ocean Rescue team who were wearing full wetsuits to battle the cold, were on hand to save any swimmer if anything were to go wrong. But with the ocean as flat as glass, that didn’t seem to be an issue.
Rumor had spread that many chickened out to do the plunge because the night before the weather report was rain. But ever since the Polar Bear Plunge in Southampton has been in existence, at least according to the emcee at the event Bonnie Grice, who hosts a radio show on WLIU, “It has always been good weather for this event.”
The costumes that were on display on the beach were worthy of a Halloween contest. Denise Corley and Tom Fitzgibbons, both professionals in the Hamptons and in New York City, dressed up appropriately as penguins. Jimmy Mack dressed up in full drag, and then there was Southampton Trustee Mark Yastrzemski who jumped in the water while dressed in a full business suit and sunglasses. “I wear the same suit every year,” he said.
The event was very much a fun affair. When the cannon was shot, after a signal was given by a man dressed up in a polar bear costume waved a flag while standing on top of the lifeguard tower at the beach, the entire crowd raced into the water as everybody screamed at the top of their lungs.
But due to the warmer weather, I noticed that there were actually a significant amount of plungers who were willing to stay in the water for a little bit of a swim. Well over 100 people were swimming around in the water for a solid five minutes or more after most had jumped in and then quickly jumped out.
Perhaps it was their warm bellies that kept them from being cold. Keith Davis, the owner of the Golden Pear, was at the event handing out hot soup to plungers inside the food shack that sits at the entrance to Coopers Beach. The shack doubled as the official Polar Bear headquarters. There were other free hot drinks provided by other vendors as well, along with some bagels wrapped in plastic.
All along the beach were dogs attached to leashes barking and playing with each other as dog owners took the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle. Without a doubt, there were more spectators than there were plungers this year.
All in all, it was a very successful plunge this year. As plungers shook off the cold and snuggled up into their towels to get warm, some were doing push-ups to get their heart rate up. The beach cleared pretty quickly once the plunge was over. It transformed back to a December beach in the Hamptons.