Bridal-themed Polar Bear plunge draws crowd

Tacoma News TribuneJanuary 1, 2014 

Jayme Nimick and Jennifer Robbins stood in their wedding dresses on the foggy shore of Lake Tapps Wednesday, ready to plunge into the cold water and wash away the pasts associated with the white gowns.

It was their first time participating in the Lake Tapps Polar Bear Plunge, which brought roughly 250 people to Driftwood Point Park on New Year’s Day. Only a dozen or so participants dressed in bridal garb, which was this year’s theme.

“We like the fresh-start aspect,” said Nimick, 40.

The Lake Tapps Polar Bear Plunge started seven years ago outside Scott and Kristy Thorsteinson’s home when the couple and a friend or two decided to make the jump at midnight. It’s slowly grown over the years, usually sports a theme and has helped collect nearly 1,000 pounds of canned goods for the Sumner Food Bank.

Nimick and Robbins, both recently divorced, heard about this year’s wedding theme and made sure their daughters would never want to walk down the aisle in their mothers’ dresses before committing to the idea. Then they bought their daughters tablecloths, sashes and ribbons and let the girls design their own dresses for the plunge.

The youngest, 6-year-old Jordan, only got her feet wet but watched as the others splashed into the water, which was estimated to be 43 degrees. She wrapped herself in a fluffy pink Hello Kitty robe and emphatically shook her head.

“No way,” Jordan said.

Her sister, however, said it was fun. The plunge wasn’t without its downside though.

“I thought it sounded better than it felt,” said Jayden, 9.

Once the women dried off, they tossed their old wedding dresses into the bonfire and hugged, watching as the flames charred the white material.

Some people found wedding dresses on Craigslist or simply bought pieces of bridal garb from discount stores.

Seth Maxwell, 34, wore a petticoat and a veil attached to his baseball cap.

“Turns out I’m a size 15,” he said with a laugh. “I was a little upset.”

Laura Handy-Nimick, who has been taking the plunge since 2007, fashioned her dress out of her husband’s old undershirt. Then she jazzed it up with pink rain boots, a tiara and a pink rubber ducky necklace.

Her niece, 7-year-old Laney Nimick, wore a similar outfit. Laney loves the polar bear plunge so much that she made it the theme of her birthday party Sunday.

It’s become a tradition for Handy-Nimick to carry her niece into the water.

“I like that it’s just a laid back community event that brings people together,” she said.

Most people dashed into the water, dunked their heads or dived beneath the surface, and sprinted for the shore to warm up. Then there were people like Michael Baber, 20, who fashions himself a five-time champion for staying in the water the longest.

His record was 15 minutes.

“Every year you think it’s not going to be that bad,” Baber said. “Every year I’m proved wrong.”

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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