Undeterred by brisk winds and patches of snow still clinging to the driftwood, several hundred intrepid souls joined members of the Edmonds Uplift Society for the traditional New Year’s Day plunge into Puget Sound.
Sunday’s event started in the time-honored manner, with Uplift Society members gathering at Daphne’s Pub on Main Street for the traditional pre-event warm-up, hoisting 16-ounce cans of Rainier beer — signature beverage of the Uplift Society — and singing “God Bless America.”
After building up their collective courage, the group marched down Main Street to Brackett’s Landing where, joined by a crowd of others, on the count of three they raised voices and charged headlong into Puget Sound, splashing and screaming all the way.
Begun in 2008 by Daphne’s owner Brian Taylor, the Edmonds Polar Bear Plunge has become an annual celebration of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.
Taylor had participated in similar events over the years, and one evening over a few drinks with friends it was suggested that the time was ripe to institute a polar bear plunge in Edmonds.
Inspired by a 1932 photograph from the Edmonds Historical Museum archives showing the Edmonds Uplift Society, a prohibition-era drinking club, Taylor and company decided to revive the Uplift Society as the event sponsor. In recognition, the museum donated a print of the original Uplift Society members hoisting a few cold Rainiers, which continues to occupy a place of honor in Daphne’s Bar. Grateful for the gesture, the Uplift Society decided to donate funds generated by the event to benefit the museum, a tradition which continues to this day.
Each New Year’s Day since, Uplift Society members gather at Daphne’s, don the traditional club regalia of white terry cloth robes with embroidered dates showing each year they’ve taken the plunge, and march down Main Street to Brackett’s Landing, where they are joined by a waiting crowd for the dive into Puget Sound.
Despite relocating to the New York City area in 2013, Taylor and wife Louise Favier have maintained a close connection to the event. This year, in honor of the event’s tenth anniversary, Taylor made the trek from the Big Apple along with his two children, Jack and Kate.
“Louise couldn’t make the trip with us this year,” Taylor said, “but she’s planning to join us in spirit by jumping into the Atlantic Ocean in the Coney Island Polar Plunge.”
On hand again this year was Bill Lindsay, unofficial chronicler of Edmonds beach water temperatures, who reported the water at a comfortable 48.9 degrees, considerably warmer than the 37-degree air — which might explain why some participants returned to the water several times during the event.
At the conclusion of the plunge, a soaked but clearly exhilarated Taylor was joined by children Kate and Jack to present a $1,000 check to the Edmonds Historical Museum.
“We’re so honored and grateful to have enjoyed the support of Brian and the Uplift Society over the years,” said Museum Director Katie Kelly as she accepted the check. “Over its 10-year history, the plunge has become a signature Edmonds event, one that defines our community and builds on our heritage.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel