PHOTOS: Shivering in style at the New Year’s Day Polar Plunge
By Taylor J. Hale
Special to the Gazette
STEVENS POINT — Few things embody the spirit of Wisconsin as well as plummeting into unfathomably icy waters in winter as a crowd watches in anticipation, at a festive Polar Plunge.
The very nature of the plunges seems to beckon area natives. Offering people a chance to fully embrace the bitterness of winter while welcoming in the new year. Stevens Point’s very own Rusty’s Backwater Saloon has been forming frigid traditions with their annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge since 1992. The event is now free to participate in and has developed into a local custom.
Plungers dive into the icy waters of Mill Creek before being fished out by Rudolph Fire Rescue volunteers.
“This year there is a belly flop contest,” said Rusty, owner of Rusty’s. “Some of the people from Northern Oasis Spirits are providing the winner with a bottle of whiskey.”
Divers in Rusty’s plunge come dressed in everything from elf costumes to grizzly bear suits. Rusty isn’t sure when the costumes became such a big deal, but he is glad people are having fun with the event.
“I don’t know when people started to dress up,” Rusty explained. “They wanted to do something different, so the suits came out.”
The number of guests ranges from 20 to as many as 140 some years. Rusty believes temperature can be a factor in participant counts. Regardless of the size, Rudolph Fire Rescue personnel have never seen an injury at the plunge during their over 20 years of volunteering. The plunge has a long history in the area, and people seem more excited than ever to hurl themselves into the unforgivingly cold river.
Crazy? Possibly, but that’s what Wisconsinites do in the doldrums of winter.
For more info on the next New Year’s Day Polar Plunge at Rusty’s visit their Facebook page at