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Plunge into the new year with the 23rd annual Polar Bear Swim
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Greg Owen shakes off some water after jumping into the lake during the Polar Bear plunge at Lake Lanier on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Though many of this year’s events have been canceled, you can still say goodbye to 2020 and plunge into the new year with a dip in a likely frigid Lake Lanier at the 23rd annual Polar Bear Swim. 

Hosted by the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, the event will kick off at noon on New Year’s Day, Friday, Jan. 1, at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Beach on 3105 Clarks Bridge Road

Jim O’Dell, program director for the club, said the event’s name switched from Polar Bear Plunge to Polar Bear Swim this year, because the nature of the event has changed slightly. 

Instead of having people gathering close to each other and waiting their turn to jump off a dock, O’Dell said they will run into the lake from the beach, giving ample room to spread out. 

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23rd annual Polar Bear Swim

When: Noon Friday, Jan. 1

Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Park Beach, 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville

How much: $20 per person

Online registration:

More info: or 770-287-7888

“It's just gonna be safer,” he said. “This is the first time that we're running into the water and if everybody likes it, we'll continue doing that.”

O’Dell said the club wanted to continue hosting the annual event, because it’s a community tradition to start off the year.

“People need something to do, and the fact that we can provide this, what I really consider, service for people to come out and have fun in a relatively safe environment,” O’Dell said. “Because I think, as everybody hopefully realizes, it’s safer outdoors.”

Organizers say this year’s theme for the swim is, “Running away from 2020,” and participants will dash into the freezing cold water as a tribute to leaving the year behind.

People can register online or sign up in-person at Olympic Park by 10:45 a.m. Jan. 1. The fee to enter this year is $20 per person. Those who register before Friday, Dec. 18, will receive a free T-shirt.

Participants are encouraged to arrive before 11:30 a.m.

Organizers are also recommending the wearing of masks and social distancing while around others. 

The event will still feature its annual contests for swimmers and families, as well as several COVID-19-inspired piñatas and a marshmallow snowman building contest. People can also participate in a CrossFit relay challenge, where teams of three will dive into the water, swim a lap and tag in their next teammate. Food trucks will be on site. 

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