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Fort Myers Beach Gulf plunge set for New Year’s Day

December 27, 2018
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A Fort Myers Beach tradition began 14 years ago when friends, Ed Herbert, Bill Schmidt and Doc Malcolm, decided to get dressed up and take a plunge into the Gulf of Mexico on New Year's Day.

"It just started as a fun family day," Herbert said.

The following year, The Fort Myers Beach Polar Bear Dip attracted 25 people and then several hundred. During the sixth and seventh year, the Polar Bear Club officers started doing it as a benefit.

This year The Fort Myers Beach Polar Bear Dip will take place at the Outrigger Beach Resort, 6200 Estero Blvd., from noon until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The dip's benefit is in memory of Ruth "Ruthie" DeHenning, who was a long-time Beach resident who passed away this past summer.

The frigid plunge into the Gulf of Mexico will take place around 2 p.m.

Those who would like to take the plunge will do the group march as they sing the Polar Bear theme song.

"The water averages from high 60s to 71, 72 (degrees). A few years back it was 57 degrees and pretty cold," he said.

Costumes, with discretion, are welcome. Herbert said last year people dressed up as Donald Trump, others as mermaids.

"We tell people to be respectful in their costumes," he said, because kids, families and tourists participate. "People come up with the strangest ideas."

Herbert said he dresses like a country bumpkin with his boots and vest and Schmidt wears his red long johns and thick cowboy hat.

"It's a matter of fun," he said.

The festivities will also include entertainment provided by local musician Smoking Bill and the Smoking Section.

"He puts a group of local musicians together three, or four times a year," Herbert said of Smoking Bill. "They really make great music."

The benefit will also have T-shirts and Polar Bear drink koozies for sale, as well as 50/50 tickets.

A Chinese Auction, and silent auction are available with items donated by businesses, artists and residents. The winner of the silent auction will be announced at 4:30 p.m.

Those who would like to donate items for the silent auction can do so by contacting Bonnie Blake at 239-738-3251, or Herbert at 239-765-1606. Pick up for the items can be arranged, or can be dropped off at Beach Barber Shop in the Key Estero Plaza at 1661 Estero Blvd.

"It's always fun. It's a fun thing here on the beach. It's for a good cause. It's for people to have a nice time on New Year's Day and appreciate the island," Herbert said.



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