Polar Bear Plunge: A New Year’s Tradition in Decatur

Posted on: 2:47 pm, January 2, 2014, by , updated on: 02:48pm, January 2, 2014

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s a River City tradition – starting the New Year by jumping into the cold Tennessee River.

“It was pretty freezing,” Lucy Orr said after taking the plunge.

“It was like, numb, and it hurt like a lot,” said Maggie Helms.

They must be talking about the Polar Bear Plunge!

“It was so much fun, it was exhilarating,” said Haley Sexton.  “I felt such a rush!”

Wayne Holliday started the New Year tradition 30 years ago.

“I’m amazed, it’s extraordinary,” he said.  “I had no idea [there are] people as foolish as I am in this part of the country.”

He doesn’t jump alone.  This year, he was one of 150.

“Jump in and you were gasping for breath and you couldn’t really feel anything and you were trying to swim to shore and you kinda couldn’t,” said Lucy Orr.

But the real question: why?  For some, it’s a family tradition.

“I’ve done it in past years and my whole family is doing it this year,” said Lydia Orr.

It’s a jump for health and happiness.

“How stupid I was for doing this?” said Maggie Helms.

It’s also for a good cause.  Wayne Holliday sells t-shirts every year and gives the money raised to Meals on Wheels.