In 2005, Fenwick Islanders kicked off their new year with a splash — a literal one. The town’s first New Year’s Day ocean swim event was a roaring success, drawing hundreds of people to the beach on an unseasonably warm morning that first day of January and many of those people into the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, with 2006 just around the corner, organizers of the second annual Fenwick Freeze are hoping the high turnout will turn out to be as much a tradition as the Freeze itself could become, despite a comparatively chilly forecast for this Sunday.
“We were mainly trying to see how it would be received if the weather was a lot colder than last year,” said Fenwick Island Town Council Member Chris Clark, who helped organize the inaugural Freeze and participated in organizing the 2006 event. “We wanted to see what the interest would be continuing into year two, with more normal temperatures,” Clark added.
The weather could be a deciding factor for the turnout on New Year’s Day of 2006. Water temperatures in the ocean are about 40 degrees, and air temperatures for the day are forecast to reach a modest high of 51 degrees, with a 39-degree low and estimated 8 mph winds.
That means organizer Jo Ellen Cain may find that the coat portion of her fur coat/bikini outfit from 2005 might be even more appropriate to usher in 2006.
Would-be splashers and lots of spectators/cheerleaders turned out early on New Year’s Day in 2005, with long lines of last-minute registrants forming as the time neared for them to hit the water.
In all, 135 people registered for the event — well above what organizers were anticipating for the Freeze’s first year.
“A lot of people registered at the beach on the day of the event,” Clark noted.
Already, more than 60 people have registered for the 2005 event, as registration forms trickled into the town hall over the last few weeks. More than a dozen registered in the handful of days between the winter solstice and mid-week this week.
The question remains of how many will wait until the last minute to register — or even to decide whether they plan to take to the water.
The warm weather last year was undoubtedly a factor in drawing out those who were sitting on the fence about actually going in and seemed to even convince some of those who just couldn’t resist the rush toward the waves.
“The weather was so good,” recalled Town Administrator Helen Torres this week in anticipation of additional last-minute registrants for the second edition of the Freeze.
The theme for the 2006 event: “Just for Kicks — 2006.” It accurately reflects the casual, family atmosphere the Freeze had in its inaugural year, with residents of all ages gathering by the hundreds on that sunny, warm first day of 2005.
Many of those who clearly hadn’t planned to join the 2005 splash still dipped their toes in the chilly water, between the comfort of the air temperatures and a roaring bonfire on the beach. Initial estimates of those on the beach topped 300. And many of them stuck around for quite a while afterward, socializing and playing in the water.
The bonfire is still part of the plan for 2006, and likely even more needed, with the more seasonable air temperatures that are anticipated.
The biggest impact of that temperature factor may be on registration for the event. That will continue through the day of the Freeze, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Fenwick Island Town Hall, and again on Sunday morning, from 8 to 9 a.m., also at the town hall.
From there, Torres confirmed, registration will continue on the beach prior to the Freeze again in 2006, leading up to a 10:30 a.m. start. Note, though — the location of the Freeze has changed to Cannon Street this year.
Registration costs $15 through Saturday, $20 on the day of the event. Registrants will receive a commemorative T-shirt, which Clark promised would be a step up in quality for the second year of the Freeze, thanks to some additional time to get them made.
“This will be a much better quality T-shirt,” Clark emphasized.
T-shirts in hand, Freeze participants and spectators alike will gather on the beach at Cannon Street in Fenwick Island on Sunday morning, anticipating a 10:30 race for the waves. (Notably, that still leaves time for Freezers to rush north to Bethany Beach to do it all over again for another good cause — or sheer bragging rights — in the 10th Annual Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos.)
Proceeds of the Fenwick Island event go to the town’s traditional symbol — the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
For more information on the 2006 Fenwick Freeze, call Fenwick Island Town Hall at (302) 539-3011. The registration form for the event is also available on-line, at the town’s Web site at www.fenwickisland.org.