SILVER CREEK - The party began at noon at the Firehouse on the Lake in Silver Creek. Participants and spectators in the 11th annual Polar Swim converged on the location.
The charities benefiting from the event are: Variety Kids Telethon (Women and Children's Hospital and other causes), the Silver Creek Emergency Squad, Sunset Bay Volunteer Fire Department and the Silver Creek Food Pantry.
Fire police parked cars. Emergency vehicles parked on the beach. Water rescue personnel tested the waters and remained on duty to see everyone was safe. Some personnel, clad for the cold, entered the water and stayed there through the swim.
polar bear swim in silver creek
Deb Adams of the polar bear committee said she thought of the event 11 years ago.
She said, "Some of us were having dinner and I said, 'Let's do something. ... The event has grown from earning $2,900 the first year to $15,000 last year."
Inside there was food and beverage, music, and a silent auction. Swimmers checked in downstairs, many already in costume.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Top: Pictured are some of the estimated 100 participants in the Silver Creek Polar Swim held Sunday near the Firehouse on the Lake.
Above: This group of colorfully dressed participants felt like clowning around in the water. Pictured before their dip are, left to right,: Les Ormsby, Sonja Bacho, Lizzy Wasiela, Dana Torres and Kelly Wasiela.
A group of clowns showed up. Les Ormsby, Sonja Bacho, Lizzy Wasiela, Dana Torres and Kelly Wasiela were veteran polar bears. In the past, some of them had dressed as Vikings, Captain Morgan and Little Bo Beep.
The trio of Snap, Crackle and Pop arrived, each holding an empty box of cereal. A number of men dressed in tutus made a grand entrance.
There was a man dressed as a sailor, another in a kilt, a big green bear, a man in a Hawaiian shirt and lei, as well as many others. Others were dressed normally, if that term can apply to wearing a swim suit in Western New York in January.
A few minutes before 1 p.m., a group of firemen escorted a differently-abled swimmer into and out of the cold water. This was his fourth year participating. The other participants began to gather on the beach. One of the "women" dressed in a tutu shook out a towel and laid it out on the beach. She said she was sunbathing and attracted much laughter.
A countdown began. At its end, people dashed into the water. Some stayed a few seconds and dashed right out again. Others stayed longer. Bruce Filipiak from Cheektowaga, raised his wooden mug and began singing "Oh Canada." Afterwards he said, "This year we were in the lake rather than the creek. You could actually see Canada."
Bacho, one of the clowns, said it was warmer this year. "This is the first year the water is free of ice. We're dedicated to this. It's amazing how warm you feel when you get out."
In about 15 minutes, the beach was clear, except for Emily Schultz who chose to change outdoors rather than going inside. She said it would be crowded downstairs at the club. When asked why she participates she said, "It's invigorating and it's for a good cause."