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Arlington family leads ‘Polar Bear’ plunge

Three area families prepare to take a “polar bear” plunge on New Year’s Day at Lake Goodwin. - Courtesy Photo
Three area families prepare to take a “polar bear” plunge on New Year’s Day at Lake Goodwin.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

STANWOOD — More than a dozen area residents greeted the New Year by braving the elements in a bracing fashion.

The Dickson family of Arlington has been taking “polar bear” plunges for the past 14 years on New Year’s Day, but this year, they included other families in their tradition.

“We invited everyone we knew, about 250 families, to join us,” said Stephanie Dickson, who was accompanied by her husband Dorrel and four of their six children in making the dip in Lake Goodwin at noon on Jan. 1. “We got two families to join us and another two to watch. I really wish there was an official dip in our area but, since there isn’t, we’re making a grassroots effort to get one going. It’s more fun if it’s a group and not just one crazy family,” she laughed.

The Dicksons were originally inspired by reading stories about “polar bear” swimmers in other areas, and they moved their celebration from Twin Lakes to Lake Goodwin last year.

“Lake Goodwin has a dock, which makes it much easier,” Dickson said. “You can just jump right in.”

Although there was ice on the lake and the day’s temperatures were in the 20s, Dickson insisted that the lack of wind and the sunny skies did a great deal to help take the chill off. All the same, the Dicksons offered hot chocolate, cookies and a propane-heated warm-up tent for those who became “polar bears” that day.

“The ones who jumped in said they’d definitely do it again, while the ones who watched said we were crazy,” Dickson laughed. “One of the kids who came to watch actually asked where the polar bears were. Every person who dives in seems to do that same arms-above-the-head pose of victory, because if you take the plunge, you feel like you can do anything.”

Although she assured prospective “polar bears” that it’s simple to break through a thin layer of ice, Dickson noted that they didn’t have to do so in order to enter the waters of Lake Goodwin this year. At the same time, she advised parents to take the precaution of dressing their children in life jackets during their first time as “polar bears.”

“Especially if they’re younger, it can get so cold that they might not even be able to think enough to swim,” Dickson said. “Our kids look forward to this for months. The boys bragged they were going to dive in three times this year, but they only did it once. The girls jumped in three times, though.”

Dickson is already considering offering a patch or a certificate to recruit more “polar bears” for next year’s swim.

“We don’t have the crowds that they see in Seattle, but maybe someday,” Dickson said. “It’s a great way to ring in the New Year.”

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