brigantine Polar Bear Plunge

Billing themselves as the "Real Housewives of NJ," Renee Nolan, Rose Kelly, Gerri Riordan and Lydia Gajtkowski, all of Brigantine, came in costume for the annual Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge. Sunday January 1 2012 (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)


BRIGANTINE — There was a clear division between the people who were taking the plunge Sunday and those who were simply at the city’s north end seawall to watch.

Spectators were dressed in furry boots, sweatshirts and pants, while those brave enough to take part in the annual Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge voluntarily removed their layers and stripped down to less-weather-appropriate attire.

“If you don’t go under, it doesn’t count,” Nicole Driscoll, of Absecon, said as she dried off with her family after plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. “If the hair’s not wet, it doesn’t count.”

Driscoll said the unspoken rule was understood by most participants in the event, which raised funds for the Fisher House Foundation. It was her second year participating.

Jim Craine, who served as the master of ceremonies, said the goal was to raise $50,000 for the charity that provides housing and transportation to the families of wounded military servicemen and women.

Driscoll said the family friendly event was a great way to start the year.

“It’s one of those things we’ll talk about now for a year,” she said, adding the topic likely will revolve around who is participating next January.

Aside from supporting Fisher House, participants said Sunday they were there for the fun of it all. The event included a costume contest for plungers.

Lydia Gajtkowski, Gerri Riordan, Rose Kelly and Renee Nolan banded together for their costumes.

They were the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” — their own spin on the hit television series.

“Everyone watches it,” said Kelly, of Brigantine. “We really are the real ones.”

The women did not wear expensive designer duds and fancy jewelry like the television stars. Kelly — who participated in the noon swim — had curlers in her hair and was wearing a bathrobe.

Her outfit was complete with fuzzy bear slippers and white face cleanser on her cheeks.

Kelly said she was glad to dip into the chilly waters because the cause was worth it.

“It’s awesome,” she said of the event. “I would never miss this no matter what the weather.”

Contact Caitlin Dineen:


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