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Posts Tagged ‘Polar Bear Plunge’

Find the perfect holiday gift for the Coney aficionado on your list with ATZ’s 12 Days of Coney Island Christmas Gift Guide. Like the People’s Playground itself, some of the selections are seasonal pleasures, while others can be enjoyed year round. All can be purchased online.

Polar Bear Plunge

I Did It! New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

The 111-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club has hats, T-shirts, hoodies and blankets ($15-$40) sporting their bear-y adorable logo for sale online. The blanket will come in handy if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip. Did you know this hugely popular event is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation?

You and your friends can register online now and pledge a donation to this year’s plunge or help participants like “Cold Is The New Hot!!!” and Lutheran Medical Center’s “Team Spartacus” meet their fundraising goals here. Seven per cent of the $50,000 goal has been raised as of December 9th. Any plunger raising $100 or more will receive a long sleeve Freezin’ for a Reason shirt. Participants over 21 also will receive a limited edition “The Plunge” pint glass, compliments of Coney Island Brewing Company, and an invitation to an after party with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club at Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue.

Frozen custard

Frozen custard from Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s of Coney Island is closed till spring but sells gift cards ($5-$100) online year-round. When store owner Ezra Shalam opened the Rita’s franchise this year on Surf Avenue, he brought genuine frozen custard back home to the place of its origin. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Rita’s menu also offers Italian ice, layered gelati, sundaes with a choice of 20 toppings, sugar-free treats, and items that blend Italian ice with frozen custard.

Coney Island Snow Globe

Coney Island Snow Globe, Lola Star Boutique

Lola Star’s souvenir boutique, which started out on the Coney Island Boardwalk in 2000, has a satellite location on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg as well as an online store stocked with her unique designs. This Coney Island Snow Globe features a mermaid amid miniature versions of the amusement area’s landmark rides ($8). For the same price you can also get a Coney lovebird-themed mousepad. Other stocking stuffers include shot glasses ($6) and an array of Lola Star T-shirts for kids of all ages and adults. Disappointed the games are closed and you can’t spend money to win a plush toy? Order a Hello Kitty Coney Cupcake or Polka Dotted Octopus ($7-$10).

Brooklyn Cyclones

The Brooklyn Cyclones’ Foam Hand

Since Brooklyn Cyclones’ tickets for the 2015 season won’t go on sale till next year, you could write an I.O.U. and drop it in the Christmas stocking. Or buy the fans something they can get their hands on now: A Foam Hand in Christmas-y red or blue with a #1 emblazoned on the index finger and the Cyclones’ roller coaster logo on each side ($7.99). A plush snow bear ornament sporting a Cyclones scarf and a red hat ($11.99) and Cyclones apparel are also available at their online store along with merch for the Brooklyn Bolts, the team that brought pro football back to Brooklyn for the first time since the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

“A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the capsule description of Amy Nicholson’s documentary Zipper, which is available on DVD for just $10 via the film’s online store.. Read ATZ’s review of the film here and see the trailer here. The Deluxe Edition DVD ($20) has Spanish subtitles plus a few extras: A 15-minute movie of the film crew’s trip to Honduras to find the Zipper, where it was sold after being evicted from Coney Island, and a short funny “adult” story by Zipper crew members Joey and Don. Through January 1st, the store is offering a free Zipper tote with a two item purchase.

Ruby's shirt

Red Ruby’s Bar & Grill Tee

In 1975, Ruby Jacobs bought the Hebrew National Deli and Bar on the boardwalk, which had opened in 1934, and turned it into Ruby’s Bar and Restaurant. This summer, his daughter and son-in-law and their kids, who run the place, marked the beloved hang-out’s 80th anniversary. These red Ruby’s T-shirts ($20) with “Celebrating 80 Years” on the back are among the Ruby’s souvenirs in the bar’s online store. “As is our tradition, we WILL be open for the Polar Bear Club’s annual plunge on New Year’s Day,” says a post on their Facebook page.”Ruby’s is looking forward to seeing you again in 2015!”

Steeplechase horse

Steeplechase horse at the Coney Island History Project

An original Steeplechase horse from one of Coney’s first thrill rides is among the rare artifacts on view at the Coney Island History Project. The history organization offers 1-1/2 hour walking tours ($20 per person) year-round that include a private visit to their exhibit center during the off-season. Advance tickets for 2015 may be purchased online. Walking tours are based on History Project director Charles Denson’s classic book Coney Island: Lost and Found ($29.95), which along with other publications is available on the History Project’s website.

Paul's Daughter

Paul’s Daughter Tee from Brooklyn Brewery

While Papa Burger, an A & W Root Beer figure from the 1960s, still anchors the Luna Park side of Paul’s Daughter’s rooftop, Mama Burger was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The eight-foot-tall fiberglass figure got knocked over — at first she was thought to be missing– and her hamburger and Brooklyn Brewery mug blew away. The Brewery has come up with a T-shirt to pay tribute to Mama Burger ($25) and raise funds toward her restoration. “They have a real love for Mama Burger,” says Paul’s Daughter Tina Georgoulakos, who recalls how one day her father took a Brooklyn Brewery sign and stuck it on the figure’s beer mug. “I have to find people who can restore her.”

Beer Book

28 Beers at 28 Bars for $28

Brokelyn.com’s The South Brooklyn and The Rockaways Beer Book ($28) has vouchers for 28 beers at 28 bars including Coney Island’s Freak Bar, Peggy O’Neill’s and Ruby’s Bar & Grill. So that’s $1.00 a beer! The other 25 vouchers are an enticement to bar hop to Bay Ridge, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park, and Rockaway.

The Tickler, A Wild Mouse style coaster, at Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks open for the 2015 season on Palm Sunday, March 29th. Though Luna Park is currently closed for a winter’s nap, the park is offering a December discount on pre-ordered wristbands. Customers who buy one wristband for $32 get a second one free. The deal offers unlimited access to 22 rides at Luna Park for a 4 hour period. Extreme thrill rides, such as the Cyclone and Thunderbolt, and the B&B Carousell are not included on the wristband. Check website for details.

Sea Otter NY Aquarium

Sea Otter at NY Aquarium. Photo © Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

While recovering from Sandy and building the new “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit, scheduled to open in spring 2016, the New York Aquarium remains open 365 days a year. Gift memberships help the Wildlife Conservation Society save wildlife and wild places worldwide and start at $75. Benefits include free admission to the Aquarium as well as the Bronx Zoo and three other zoos in the City. One of the perks of premium membership ($119-$189) is free parking in the Aquarium’s lot, which is a very desirable perk for frequent visitors to Coney Island.

Mermaid Parade

The first bribe of the Mermaid Parade? The Chief Justice pouring rum. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, but is anyone else dreaming of summer? It’s not too early to buy a judgeship for the annual Mermaid Parade, which is Saturday, June 20, 2015. Parade organizer and arts org Coney Island USA’s $150 Big Spender membership entitles the giftee to be an official Judge of the Mermaid Parade with VIP seating on the reviewing stand and a Mermaid Parade Judge T-shirt. Oh, and partake in the bribes offered to the judges by the paraders: beer, vodka, more beer, chocolate cake, beer, lubricants, play money, glow in the dark octopus toy, more beer, more vodka, lemonade, rum balls, and finally more beer. It’s no wonder the judgeships are “sold out” well before the parade. Memberships support arts programming at CIUSA and start at $35 with benefits including free admission to the freak show.

Happy Holidays to All!

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December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Polar Bear Plunge

Viking Beauty and Photographer. Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge 2014. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Based on the videos and photos of Coney Island’s New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, most people stripped down to swimsuits or athletic wear. But a contingent of creative folk once again came prepared with wacky headgear, costumes and accoutrements in the spirit of the Mermaid Parade. Brooklyn photographer Barry Yanowitz captured the best of the best. In the above photo, he even managed to get a bikini-clad Viking beauty and a photographer wearing a full wetsuit in the same frame. “I bought waterproof boots last year, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go,” says Barry, who grew up in Coney Island and lived here until graduating from college in 1995.

Polar Bear Plunge

Formal Tea at Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge 2014. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

ATZ’s award for best dressed males and best set design at the Polar Bear Plunge goes to the two gentlemen in formal wear who carried a tabletop set for tea into the surf. In a tableau reminiscent of Improv Everywhere’s “Black Tie Beach,” they poured tea for fellow swimmers.

Polar Bear Plunge

Formal Tea at Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge 2014. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

Among the Santas, superheroes, angels, devils and spirit animals, this loving couple–Wonder Woman and Hulk Hogan– stood out. You can see more of Barry Yanowitz’s photos from his New Year’s Day set on his website.

Polar Bear Plunge

Wonder Woman and Hulk Hogan at Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge 2014. Photo © Barry Yanowitz

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January 2, 2014: Photo Album: A Happy New Year’s Day in Coney Island

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

February 23, 2011: Double Exposure: Photographer Barry Yanowitz & Coney Island on BCAT TV

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One of the pleasures of going to Coney Island for the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge is greeting friends and luminaries on the Boardwalk, at Ruby’s Bar and at Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar. Among the people ATZ wished a “Happy New Year!” today were Jimmy Prince of Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market, which closed in 2009, and John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, now in Staten Island. These two old friends have a long tradition of meeting on the Boardwalk on New Year’s Day.

On a day when New York City was inaugurating its first new Mayor in a dozen years at 1pm (the same time as the Polar Bear Plunge), Coney Island USA’s Dick Zigun remained “The Permanently Unelected Mayor of Coney Island.” And tattooed ladies, the MetroCard Man and other zany characters were gladly posing for photos. Cheers to another fun season at Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk!

Dick Zigun

Dick Zigun at Coney Island USA on New Year’s Day. January 1, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Coney Island Polar Club

Members of the Coney Island Polar Club enjoy a Sunday Swim, December 22, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The Coney Island Polar Bears, the oldest winter bathing club in the country, go for a dip in the Atlantic every Sunday starting in November. On January 1st, everyone’s invited to join the party. The Polar Bear Plunge is a fun way to spend New Year’s Day, whether you brave the water or snap photos from the shore. Some of the costumed plungers in Bruce Handy’s photos of past New Year’s Days are reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade. There’s the Metrocard Man, Big Babies in Diapers, Hawaiian dancers, and many superheroes, as well as penguins, ducks, and of course polar bears!

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

Costumed Characters: Asbury Toll Plaza Meets MetroCard Man at 2013 Polar Bear Plunge, January 1, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The zany event is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer holiday. You can register and pledge a donation to this year’s plunge or help participants meet their fundraising goals here. Swim time is 1pm, but it’s best to arrive early. About 2,000 people joined last year’s Plunge, earning an “I Did It” certificate from the Club and bragging rights forever while raising more than $22,000 for Camp Sunshine.

Among the stores that will be open for New Year’s Day are Nathan’s, Ruby’s Bar, The Freak Bar, Tom’s Coney Island and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, along with Williams Candy, Lola Star’s Boardwalk Boutique, Coney Island and Brooklyn Beach Shops, and Brooklyn Rock. For the first time ever, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will perform on New Year’s Day, with continuous shows from 2-6pm 12-7pm.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

2012 Polar Bear Plunge, January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

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January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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ATZ is pleased to present this Coney Island Polar Bear’s eye view of the 2013 New Year’s Day Plunge with videos by Polar Bear Club members Jim McDonnell and Princess Mermaid Capri. The Polar Bear Club, which has 150 members who swim every Sunday in the winter, celebrated their 110th year with the 2013 New Year’s Day Plunge. About 2,000 people participated in today’s event, which is free and open to the public. They earned an “I Did It” certificate from the Club and “bragging rights forever,” as one participant says in Jim’s video. The water temperature was 41F/5C, air temp 37F and wind chill 27F, according to Capri.

For the first time in the Polar Bear Club’s history, instead of everyone running into the water at once, waves of people went in approximately every seven minutes, a couple hundred at a time. Also for the first time, registration was mandatory for the New Year’s Day Plunge since participants were issued color-coded wristbands. Those with blue wristbands were in the first wave of swimmers at 1pm, followed by red, green, orange and purple. Here’s the first wave…

“It went very well,” Polar Bear President Dennis Thomas told ATZ. “The Parks Department wanted a little more control and less chaos. And we did a better job of getting everyone registered.” Last year on New Year’s Day, temps in the 50s drew a record number of participants– more than 3,000– making the changes advisable from a safety standpoint.

Besides being a great way to start off the new year, the annual event is a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life threatening diseases. According to Thomas, almost $22,000 was raised for Camp Sunshine and they expect to meet their goal of $25,000. This year, funds are also being raised for Coney Recovers, a coalition of local nonprofits helping with relief efforts after SuperStorm Sandy. If you missed the event, it’s not too late to donate online or mail in a check.

This video by Princess Mermaid Capri shows the fourth wave of swimmers…

Some of the wacky costumed characters are familiar from previous years’ swims or reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade. In photos and videos, we spotted the bagpiper, the Metrocard Man, Santa Claus, Hawaiians, various superheroes and the guys with the inflatable octopus toy as well as penguins and polar bears! Some carried hand-made signs that read “Free Polar Hugs” and “Polar Bears from the Bronx.” Two Japanese guys in bikinis from Tokyo Circus shared a timeless message: “Your Smile Is Beautiful.” Happy New Year from Coney Island!

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This short film produced by Coney Island Polar Bear Club member Jim Muscarella celebrates the joyous spirit of the club’s annual New Year’s Day swim. This year, sunny skies and temps in the 50s drew the largest number of participants in the club’s history. But the coldest thing on Coney Island, according to Muscarella’s film, is going for a winter swim when air temps are 10 degrees and under and water temps are under 35 degrees. Brrr! Well, maybe next year–it’s February and temps are still in the 40s and 50s.

Founded in 1903, the Polar Bear Club is also the oldest thing on Coney Island says Chief Polar Bear Dennis Thomas in the film: “We’re happy to be a Coney Island landmark. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter swimming club in the country. We’re older than the Parachute Drop and the Cyclone and anything else you see here.”

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Polar Bear Plunge

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

On New Year’s Day 2012 in Coney Island, a record number of people, nearly three times as many as last year, did the Polar Bear Plunge. Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ that the number of “I Did It” certificates given out to registered swimmers soared. “We went through almost 3,000,” said Thomas, who noted that the unofficial number of plungers is always higher because “some register, others don’t.” On New Year’s Day 2011, the official tally of registered swimmers was about 1,200 and the Bears gave out 1,000 certificates before they ran out.

Sunny skies and temps in the 50s also drew the largest crowd of spectators in the club’s history. “I think the weather made it better and more enjoyable,” Thomas said of the event, which is an annual fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life threatening diseases. According to the chart at Freezin for a Reason, more than $37,000 has been received in donations. Thomas said pledges are still coming in and the Coney Island Polar Bears expect to meet their goal of raising $50,000. (If you missed the event, it’s not too late to mail a check.)

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

“We had a DJ on Stillwell to provide entertainment and there were hundreds of people dancing,” Thomas said. Some of the costumed plungers were familiar from previous years’ swims or reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade. There was the Metrocard Man, Big Babies in Diapers, a group of jailbirds, a pirate couple in their pirate ship, and a gaggle of superheroes, as well as penguins, ducks, and of course polar bears! Some carried hand-made signs that read Occupy Peace, Occupy the Ocean, Free Polar Hugs and Polar Bears from Bronx.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The only stores open on the Boardwalk were Ruby’s, which was jam-packed with New Year’s Day revelers celebrating the beloved bar’s new eight-year lease, and the Lola Star Boutique next door. Shop owner and designer Dianna Carlin said it was the “Best New Year’s Day party ever!” It was the first time her shop was open on New Year’s and when she arrived bright and early at 10:30am, much to her surprise the Boardwalk was already packed. Lola Star Boutique offered the first Coney Collectible of 2012– a limited edition magnet–for free to Polar Bear Plungers as well as to customers who spent $20 at the shop. Nearly all 150 of the magnets were given out. “You can’t buy it. You can only earn it. I’m going to make it an annual souvenir, only available on New Year’s Day.”

On the Boardwalk in front of Ruby's Bar and Lola Star Boutique, January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Coney Island resident and photographer Bruce Handy, whose photos are featured in this post, echoes others when he said, “I have never seen a huge, gigantic crowd as on Sunday.” He estimated there were about 5,000 people on the beach and boardwalk, 2,000 polar bears plunging. “The plunge frontage was from Stillwell Avenue almost to Steeplechase Pier, way longer than usual. The warm weather brought many people out, who in past years had thought about plunging into the frigid sea.”

Polar Bear Plunge

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

What are the reasons for the event’s growing popularity? Thomas told us in “By the Numbers: Coney Island New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim 2010″ (ATZ, Jan. 8, 2010)…

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.

After this year’s record attendance, Thomas says “It’s getting so big, we’re pushed to the limits.” He and his team begin working on the event in November, when their winter swimming season starts. “We really need to enlist more help. The logistics are getting to be enormous and it imposes a lot more costs on us.” In past years, sponsorships from Planet Green and Vaseline Skin Care helped out.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

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December 25, 2013: Just Do It! January 1st Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

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

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