Families take a cold swim for New Year

GAINESVILLE - After Christmas each year, Elizabeth Canupp's parents dispose of their tree in the depths of Lake Lanier.

While her tree was still on the porch New Year's Day, the 16-year-old took inspiration from the family tradition and she dressed as a Christmas tree herself - and she ended up at the bottom of the lake - jumping in as part of the annual Polar Bear Swim.

About 80 people came out for the 12th event at a Gainesville pier.

"It's the look on the face that's kind of priceless," announcer Rich Roszel said as people flipped, belly-flopped and dived into the frigid waters.

Because of the low lake level, the temperature gauges are now above the water, but Roszel joked that the water was 48 degrees, according to the finger test.

Sarah Northrop, 10, said she tested the water with her hand before she jumped in with her dad, who wore fake dreadlocks to give the impression of a warm summer day in Jamaica.

But when Sarah pulled herself out of the water and onto the pier, she jumped up and down and said, "I've got to go to the hot tub."

That's right; hot tubs were set up on the lake shore to warm up the polar bear swimmers, and hot chocolate and chili were on hand.

"It was the coldest thing I've ever done," said 16-year-old Travis Stout, who won best jump, along with his friend Nick Hahlbohn.