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A polar bear plunge is an event held during the winter where participants enter a body of water despite the low temperature. In the United States polar bear plunges are usually held to raise money for a charitable organization, while in Canada they are associated with New Year's Day.
In Canada "Polar Bear Swims", "Plunges", or "Dips", is a New Year's Day tradition in numerous communities across the country. Vancouver, BC's annual Polar Bear Swim Club has been active since 1920 and typically has 1,000 to 2,000 registered participants, with a record 2,128 registrants plunging into English Bay in 2000. Registration is not enforced and the actual number of swimmers may be significantly higher. Estimates of the number of observers are typically up to 10,000. Suburban White Rock, BC's was founded in 1958, and other suburbs including Port Moody and North Vancouver also hold swims
Other locations include Edmonton AB, Calgary AB, Ottawa ON, Oakville ON, Toronto ON, Clarington ON, Sarnia ON, Montreal QC, Halifax NS, Prince Edward Island, and St. John's NL. In Yellowknife NWT, the "Freezin for a Reason" plunge is held in March after the spring thaw.
Every New Year's Day around 10,000 people dive collectively into the icy cold sea water at Scheveningen, The Netherlands' main beach resort town since 1960. In 89 locations on beaches and in lakes all over the country, each year around 30,000 people participate in this "Nieuwjaarsduik" (English: New Year's dive), with a record 36,000 participants on January 1, 2012. Since 1998 Unox, a Unilever food brand often associated with winter, adopted the Nieuwjaarsduik and ever since it is tradition to wear Unox branded winter caps and gloves.
An annual "Loony Dook" takes place in South Queensferry, Scotland on New Years Day. Several thousand attend the event with over one thousand taking the plunge. Participants regularly dress up for the occasion and will usually parade through the local town acting like "loonies" proceeding the "dook". Aside from the regular enthusiasts, most are still inebriated from New Year's Eve celebrations and have more than likely lost a bet.
Plunges are now held across the United States. Annual events are held in Seattle (since 1993), Evergreen, Colorado  New York's Coney Island Polar Bear Club, Lake George NY, Boston (since 1904), Milwaukee's Bradford Beach (since 1916), and New Jersey. Some, such as Minnesota's are held to raise proceeds for the Special Olympics.
The Plungapalooza event in Maryland, the largest polar bear plunge in the United States, held annually at Sandy Point State Park, raises funds for the Special Olympics. Sponsored by the Maryland State Police, in 2007, Plungapalooza raised $2.2 million and had 7,400 participants. In 2008, an estimated 12,000 people participated.
Every Super Bowl Sunday, Long beach NY hosts one of the largest in the US. Since 1998 thousands of people flock to the beaches of Long Beach NY to jump into the ocean on Super Bowl Sunday. http://www.longbeachpolarbears.org/
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