On a beautiful and unusually warm New Year's Day, hundreds turned out for the annual Polar Bear Plunge at . At nearly 50 degrees outside on Saturday afternoon, polar bears reported it wasn't too bitter in the Atlantic Ocean, but that didn't stop most from coming out shrieking.
It was the eighth annual East Hampton Polar Bear Plunge, but it was the first where the East Hampton Food Pantry was the official beneficiary. The East Hampton Hurricane Swim Team and the East Hampton Ocean Rescue Squad organize the tradition each year and have always asked recipients to bring canned goods.
Ed McDonald, the beach manager, said that after seeing how much money was raised at the Southampton polar bear plunge, held in mid-December each year, the decision was made to get more organized.
Kathy Byrnes, the chairwoman of the East Hampton Food Pantry, wasn't quite sure how many came out, but she knew it was more than the 250 from 2010. "It was fabulous. We had so many people here. It was just such great energy."
Hercules Volpe was apparently the oldest person to take the plunge. Volpe is on the board of the food pantry, so of course he had a reason to do it for the first time. And, he said, he's 82, "It was time."
There were veteran swimmers, of course, like John Ryan Sr. of East Hampton, who ran in with a plunger, and Terry O'Riorden of Amagansett.
Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a model well-known for her role on Bravo's Real Housewives of New York City, ran into the ocean with her daughter Sea. Afterwards, Bensimon, who spends a lot of time at her East Hampton house, said, "It was amazing." She even went back in for another dip.
Town Crier Hugh King rang a bell to let participants know it was time to run into the ocean. In the water, ocean lifeguards waded as adults and children ran in and quickly out. The stood by during the plunge just in case.
"Next year we hope to do a great costume thing," Brynes said. She dressed as Carmen Miranda by wearing a fruit basket on her head. "A fruit basket for the food pantry, you know."
Free refreshments, such as soup and hot chocolate, were served at the "Survivor's Celebration" after the plunge.