Even in the South, most people don’t go swimming in January, but for the Parrot Heads of the Savannah River, it’s the first thing on their to-do list.
For the 10th year, members of the group took a dip on New Year’s Day in the name of charity.
The annual Polar Bear Plunge kicked off a coat drive, which last year collected more than 70 coats for the Salvation Army.
“We get cold so they can get warm,” Becky McDaniel said minutes before jumping into the swimming pool at her home in Jackson.
The Parrot Heads of the Savannah River is a local chapter of Parrot Heads in Paradise, a national organization of Jimmy Buffet fans.
Some members said “it’s not that bad” as they stood around the pool before jumping. In 2011, the water was so warm that some swam for about 30 minutes before getting out.
The temperature at McDaniel’s home Tuesday was around 60 degrees, and she estimated the water was around 40 degrees.
Just after 2 p.m., six Parrot Heads and a Fox 54 reporter jumped in as four other members stood by wearing sweaters and holding cameras.
As soon as they all jumped in, they jumped back out, screaming, giggling and chilly.
A few of the men braved the water again for a second dip.
“It’s just so much fun and you’re laughing so hard,” Cathy Freeman said. “Nobody ever gets sick. You’re not in the water long enough.”
After drying off, it was on to their party, with a traditional New Year’s Day spread of collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread.
Just like the swim, McDaniel said, it was “a party with a purpose.”