• January 20, 2020

Crowd marks New Year’s Day with plunge - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Crowd marks New Year’s Day with plunge

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 10:56 am | Updated: 11:45 am, Wed Jan 8, 2020.

OCEAN CITY — January 1 was hardly a beach day in Ocean City.  Although the sun was out, temperatures were in the mid-40s. 

Still, thousands of people crowded the beach, some as spectators, but many wearing bathing suits who would frolick in the ocean, participating in Ocean City’s annual New Year’s Day tradition, First Day at the Beach. 

First Day at the Beach is one of several annual events Ocean City holds to ring in the New Year. 

First Night, a family-friendly evening with eight hours of events, drew thousands the night before – the last day of 2019. The last night of the last decade in Ocean City was celebrated with an ice skating rink, performances by the Imagination Movers, the Franklin Institute, The Trammps, the Harlem Wizards, the Mummers, and scores of other activities.

First Night included 35 shows at 22 locations throughout the community.  

At midnight, fireworks went off near Fifth Street Beach. 

The First Day Run/Walk 5K took place a few hours before the plunge into the ocean and included 463 participants, according to Doug Bergen, Ocean City’s public information officer. 

Nineteen-year-old Owen Bradley, of Mays Landing, won the race in 16:38.  Rachel Grant was the first female finisher.  Grant, 29, of Tuckerton, finished in 20:25. 

According to Bergen, the city received about 350 waivers for the First Day at the Beach, although he estimated that 500 to 800 people participated. 

Dimitri Fifis, of Cherry Hill, was among the hundreds who started the new decade swimming in the ocean. 

Jan. 1, 2020 was his first time participating in First Day. 

“It seems like fun and it’s something you can say you did,” he said. 

In the minutes before the plunge started, Fifis said he was planning to go out as far as he could, although he seemed unsure if he would follow through with that. 

“But when I’m out there, I’ll probably be like, ‘oh, cold, cold!’ and run back in,” he joked.

Fifis said he felt starting the New Year off that way had “a good energy.”

It “gives a kick-start to the New Year.  We were up late and then his morning, you run out, it wakes you up,” he said. 

For Kim Haase and her 11-year-old son, Danny, First Day was about celebrating and proving the pair had no limitations. 

The Jan. 1 event was their first formal polar lunge, but Haase said they did several informal plunges in the water together. 

Danny, who had a stroke when he was born, has also completed a five-mile run.  She and Danny are also active in the pediatric stroke community and in fundraising. 

“We do this to show that kids who have strokes can do anything,” she said. 

According to Haase, after Danny’s stroke, she was told he would be blind, have cerebral palsy, and that he would be intellectually challenged. 

“He’s none of those things, so we celebrate the first of the year as a great day,” she said.

First Day at the Beach also happened close to Haase’s 50th birthday and she said First Day was also a celebration of that.   

“We like to say there’s hope, there’s hope out there,” Haase said. 

The Guardastione and Fredo families and friends, of Woodstown and Pedrickstown, dressed as the Flintstones for the occasion, with several Freds, a Wilma, and a Pebbles, among other characters. 

“We said yabba dabba doo for 2020,” Lou Guardastione said.  

Before running into the frigid waters, members of the group danced to warm up, but it didn’t seem to be enough to spare them from the shock of the chilly water. 

When asked how the water was, several members of the group answered with one word: cold. 

A few disagreed. 

“It’s colder out here than it is in the water,” Guardastione said. 

Danielle Fredo said she was already cold, “so when I went in, I didn’t feel it.”

For the Arctic Monkeys, a group of friends who have done First Day for the last 10 years, the event is a holiday tradition. 

According to Rich Davis, of Galloway, the first time they participated in First Day, they decided to do it the night before on New Year’s Eve. The tradition, which began in 2010, has lasted a decade and the group has included up to 30 people.  On Jan. 1, many of the group’s members wore matching long-sleeved shirts and sweatshirts with their mascot, a shivering monkey, on the back of them.  

Davis remembered one year when they went in the water four times and another year when he had a broken leg and his friends carried him into the water. 

The cast did not protect him from the cold water, Davis said. 

This year, the Arctic Monkeys had four people go into the ocean and several people on land for moral support.  

Shawn Carr, a fellow member of the Arctic Monkeys, said the water wasn’t bad when he first went into the water. 

That quickly changed once he went under the water.

“When you dunk, it hits you hard,” he said. 

Transitioning back to land from the cold water can also be difficult.

“When you get out you’re fine, and then after 10 minutes, you start getting cold … It’s almost like an awakening,” he said. 

“It’s a new year,” Davis said. 

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