The New Year’s holiday is one of the favorite times of the year for people to get a fresh start, a clean break from old habits and a wide-eyed perspective on the year ahead.
Some brave souls will have the chance to get all those things in an instant via a bracing dip in the chilly ocean waters on New Year’s Day — Sunday, Jan. 1 — with the traditional Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos ocean splash in Bethany Beach.
They’ll brave water that’s slowly dipping toward 40 degrees and air temperatures aiming toward a 51-degree high for the day, as well as winds anticipated to be near 8 mph.
But as much as the event offers the chance for an invigorating start to the new year, it is also a tradition of a decade in the coastal town, with the 2006 edition being its 10th anniversary.
There is at least one new aspect to this 10th edition of the Exercise Like the Eskimos event — its location will move from the traditional spot at the town’s bandstand on Garfield Parkway to a temporary location at Campbell Place. That’s due to the ongoing construction of the new Bethany Beach bandstand, of course.
Another of the newer aspects of the event — the Hometown Pet Show — will go into its fifth year with the 2006 edition. Amy Tingle, events coordinator with the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce (which organizes the event every year), said the pet show will also be a little different this year.
“There will be an added category this year — four instead of the usual three,” Tingle said. “They’re changed up every year,” she noted.
For 2006, pets will compete for the title of best dressed, best pint-sized pet, best gallon-sized pet and owner look-alike. “And the overall winner is the people’s choice,” Tingle added.
All registered pets will receive a ribbon. Registration costs $5 per pet and will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the gathering spot on Campbell Place.
The beneficiary of the pet show is also a little different this year, with proceeds benefiting the Bethany Town Cats group, as usual, and — new this year — the Safe Haven Pet Refuge, which is a new no-kill animal shelter in the area, Tingle noted.
Pet food donations will also be accepted at the event. (Remember — all dogs must be leashed, and all animals must be under their owner’s control. And don’t forget to bring a bag to pick up after pets.)
The 5th Annual Hometown Pet Show will kick off at 10:45 a.m., leading up to the noon rush for dozens of would-be Eskimos to hit the water for the big splash.
Tingle said more than 75 people had already signed up for the splash itself as of Dec. 27. Registration will continue through the day of the event, with a $30 registration fee ($15 for students).
Those who pre-register are guaranteed a commemorative towel with which to dry off and bundle up before any icicles can form. (The towels are available on a first-come, first-served basis to those who didn’t pre-register.)
Registration will continue through Friday, Dec. 30, at the Chamber building just north of Fenwick Island. After Friday, would-be splashers will have to wait until the day of the event, at 10 a.m., to sign up at Campbell Place.
That means there is still a little time left to organize teams of splashers to compete for the honors of the Iceberg Trophy, awarded to the largest group (family, friends, co-workers).
Team splashers also get the benefit of being allowed to wear a T-shirt over their swimsuits for the splash, providing a valuable amount of extra insulation from chilly temperatures.
Tingle said those organizing teams just need to know the official name of their team and designate a team captain when registering for the event, whether that is Friday or Sunday, on the day of the event.
The Chamber staff is hoping for a strong turnout. More splashers than usual took to the water to kick off 2005, taking advantage of air temperatures that neared an unseasonable 70 degrees and took most in the area by surprise.
That meant lots of those who might have reconsidered the idea after signing up early were delighted to give it a go after all, and quite a few others were enticed into signing up at the event itself.
But the weather forecast isn’t quite so promising this year, despite the fact that Tingle said Chamber staff were hoping for much the same in terms of temperatures and splash turnout.
Though the seasonably chilly weather could be a disincentive for those considering joining in, beyond the success of the event in its number of splashers, the number of registrants has a direct effect on the welfare of a good cause.
Net proceeds from the 2006 Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos will go to the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation toward scholarships for local students. In addition to the registration fees, the Chamber will also be selling commemorative shirts and sweatshirts.
Those shirts will likely be the least creative of the costumes in view at the splash, with many team entrants traditionally aiming to carry out a theme or just out-do each other in the originality of their splash-wear.
The whole event package means that whether you’re daring enough to don a swimsuit and claim victory over winter waters or are more the type of person who just wants to come out and marvel at those who will take that chilly dip, there’s something for everyone on New Year’s Day in Bethany Beach – even those whose focus is their four-footed friends.
For more information about the 10th Annual Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos or the 5th Annual Hometown Pet Show, contact the Chamber at (302) 539-2100.