Several groups around Beaufort County are organizing ways to ring in the new year freezing cold and soaking wet with three polar bear plunges.
Thousands are expected to turn out for the events, which are a fun way to bring the community together for the holiday, said Dick Geier, president of the Friends of Hunting Island.
Geier will lead his grandsons and hundreds of others into the ocean at 1 p.m. New Year's Day on the north end of the beach at Hunting Island State Park for the sixth annual Pelican Plunge.
About 800 people attended the event last year, though only half were brave enough to dive in, Geier said. He expects as many or more to attend this year.
The water temperature is usually in the mid- to lower 50s for the event, and the National Weather Service forecasts a high of 61 degrees air temperature.
Geier said plenty of hot chocolate will be available for shivering divers.
"There's usually a quick dash in and an even quicker dash out to change those clothes and get warmed up," he said.
The plunge is also a fundraiser for the Discover Carolina program, which sends local students in third, fifth and seventh grades to visit the park for a day of learning. Last year it raised more than $4,000, Geier said.
The event is free to attend, though visitors are encouraged to make donations, he said.
Two plunges will take place on Hilton Head Island. On New Year's Eve, the 13th annual Polar Bear Swim is at 10 a.m. at the Harbour Town pool. On New Year's Day, the Hilton Head Polar Bear Plunge will be at 11 a.m. at Coligny Beach.
Island Spirits and Fine Wines owner Tim Guest organizes the Coligny Beach plunge and said more than 1,000 attended the event last year.
"The thing I like the best is all the smiles," Guest said. "It's a great way to bring in the new year, if you're not terribly hung over, and even if you are, it's a great way to wake up."
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