Lewes Polar Bears plunge into new millennium
As is tradition, a group of polar bears will jump into the ocean Jan. 1 at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. The Lewes Polar Bear Plunge was started in 1982 by a group headed up by Dave “Fredman” Frederick. The group plunges the first Sunday of every month from November through March – except January, which is always held on New Year’s Day.
Special Olympics Delaware took over the February plunge in 1992. In 1998, a nor’easter closed the state park and forced the event to Rehoboth Beach, where it has remained since. This year’s Special Olympics Delaware Lewes Polar Bear Plunge is slated for Sunday, Feb. 5, in Rehoboth Beach. Last year’s event drew more than 3,200 people and raised more than $1 million. The larger event hasn’t stopped the Lewes Polar Bear Club from continuing its New Year’s Day tradition, as a group of passionate plungers still dives into the sometimes-freezing Atlantic Ocean every year.
In this 2000 photograph taken by former Cape Gazette Publisher Dennis Forney, Fredman and chief logistician Hank Brittingham stand beside the gate where the official jump time is reported. More than 300 people showed up for the first frozen frolic of the 21st century.