The crowd gets bigger every year at the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Club Swim in Coney Island. Exactly how many Bears and Cubs took the plunge on Jan 1, 2010? How many people were spectating? How much did the charity event raise for Camp Sunshine? (Yep, you can still mail in a check.) Dennis Thomas, the President of the the Coney Island Polar Bears, gave us an update and analysis of the increasingly popular event’s stellar stats. Photos courtesy of Bruce Handy/Pablo 57’s “Coney, January 1, 2010 Polar Bear Plunge” set…
ATZ: Do you know how many people “did it” on January 1st vs last year’s swim? And how many regular members of the Polar Bear Club participated vs. how many swim on a typical Sunday
Thomas: I believe there were over 1000 swimmers this New Year’s. I don’t have any numbers for last year, but it was brutally cold last year and the crowd felt noticeably larger than last year. We have about 140 full-time members in the club. At our weekly swims we have been averaging 80-90 swimmers. I think we had more than 100 there on New Year’s.
ATZ: what are the reasons for the event growing every year? Was this year’s larger crowd due to the 41 degree air temp?
Thomas: I’m not sure why the event is growing. Part of it is just word of mouth. People went last year, told their friends who said, yeah I want to do that next year. Part of it is that Coney Island has been in the press so much lately that it is going through its own revival regardless of the development plans. Crowds out there are getting bigger for all events the past 2 years.
Part of it is our club seems to have a larger media presence than in the past and things like our website make us much easier to find than say, 10 years ago. And somehow we are less portrayed as those idiots on the beach that cause network newscasters to chuckle and shake their heads after a 10 second clip before the weather report. The New Year’s Swim is basically free and open to the public, that might be a draw in the current economy as well. I think it’s all these things that explains the larger crowds.
ATZ: How many spectators were there? And how many people involved with staffing the event including crowd control and safety? We noticed Chuck Reichenthal (District Manager of CB 13) in some pix.
Thomas: Again, it’s hard to estimate the size of the crowds on the beach. I believe someone told me the Fire Dept. estimated 10,000 people. I can’t verify that, but I also don’t doubt it. The entire bay was filled with people. I’m not sure on the numbers of the safety teams but there were 2 police boats, 3 Fire Dept boats, numerous Fire Dept EMT teams, ambulance crews, water safety teams through CERT, 3 kayakers, and at least 5 lifeguards and countless volunteers from the Polar Bear Club.
ATZ: What are latest stats on how much money was raised for Camp Sunshine? People can still mail in checks, right?
Thomas: I don’t have final figures, but we raised somewhere around $28,000 this year, up from last year which in this economy is pretty decent. And yes, people can still make contributions.
ATZ: Looking at the flickr pix by various photographers it seemed like more people were wearing costumes than in previous years. Maybe that’s just the sort of thing photographers tend to take more photos of? Or maybe there were just more people, more costumes? Do you have any comments or insight about that?
Thomas: The costume thing. Maybe it’s part of the Mermaid Parade spirit and the fact that it is after all Coney Island. We neither encourage nor discourage costumes. People just do that on their own. And it is a holiday, and a bit of an absurd activity. That must play a role in it.
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club swims at 1 pm every Sunday from November through April. To join them as a guest, show up at the New York Aquarium Education Hall, on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm.
Related posts on ATZ…
January 3, 2011: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge
December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge
Jan 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010
December 4, 2009: Photo of the Day: Let It Snow! in Coney Island