SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Cloudy skies and light rain showers continuously loomed over the Valley this New Year’s Day, but that didn’t put a damper on this annual celebration.

From visiting Winter Texans to local Valley families, hundreds participated in Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill’s free 22nd annual Polar Bear Dip held yesterday afternoon.

The idea of the annual Polar Bear Dip tradition is for participants to immerse themselves completely from head-to-toe in the water so they can wash off the old year and come out refreshed and ready for the new year.

“This is a great family-friendly event that brings in the New Year,” Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill owner Clayton Brashear said. “It started about 20 plus years ago by a couple of guys just going to the beach and it has grown into a destination event where people from as far away as Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and the Valley come out and supports it.”

New traditions

Harlingen residents Obie and Maribel Salinas sported matching reindeer onesies as they ran into the chilly ocean waters together.

It was the couple’s first time participating in the Polar Bear Dip.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to end the year and start a new one,” Obie said. “This is something we’ve been really looking forward to and wanting to experience.”

Maribel said the duo are already planning costume ideas for next year’s event.

“I think more people should come out and participate,” Obie said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year so everyone should come out and have fun while supporting the community.”

Helping a local cause

For the past four years, the Island’s Friends of Animal Rescue Shelter has been registering participants and selling commemorative Polar Bear Dip T-shirts to raise funds for their new shelter.

“The outlook on the new year is always great,” said Friends of Animal Rescue Shelter Director of Operations Sherry Pindard. “Our goals for 2020 are to break ground on our new animal shelter that we’re building in an empty lot next to our current animal shelter and to build something that will help the community and all of the animals.”

According to Pindard, the nonprofit raises anywhere from $7,000 to $9,000 during the Polar Bear Dip event, depending on the crowd.

“It’s fantastic. Clayton has always been very generous to Friends of Animal Rescue,” Pindard said with a grateful smile. “That’s a lot of money for a nonprofit shelter to make in a matter of three to four hours.”


CONDITIONS — Cloudy skies and light rain showers



By Alana Hernandez, Staff writer