SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) — Across the country, many polar bear dips were cancelled or held virtually due to the pandemic. But at South Padre Island, hundreds poured out to take a plunge in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon.
Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill’s 23rd annual Polar Bear Dip drew its usual crowd.
“It’s going to be a nice way to start the new year and start a new family tradition with the little one,” first-time participant Donnie Brewer said.
The brewers came all the way from north Texas for the event.
“The crowd is pumped; we’re pumped,” he said. “We are ready for this. We’re cold but we can do it.”
Priscilla Vela and Joann Escobar say they were hesitant of attending, but didn’t want to break their nine-year streak.
“I figured, OK we’re going to be wearing our masks most of the time except when we get in the water,” Vela said. “I just felt like we do it every (year) and I didn’t want to mess up the tradition.”
“We stayed away from the crowds,” Escobar said. “ We were in the back.”
Winter Texan Carol Nolte has been attending for just as long with neighbors from her Mission resort.
“I just like it because it’s fun and it’s companionship and we love it,” Nolte said.
Venue owner Clayton Brashear says the staff encouraged people to employ safety measures and are hopeful for a better year.
“COVID was last year, 2020,” he said. “We have 2021. Outdoor events are OK. Wear your mask, social distance, be outside, get some vitamin D/”
He adds the ritual is not just for fun, but it provides people with a fresh start.
“Wash off their sins, wash off whatever they want to wash off and enjoy the new year 2021,” Brashear said.
The event also raises an average of eight thousand dollars every year for Friends of Animal Rescue through t-shirt sales.