It’s a family tradition to run out into cold water on New Year’s Day.
That’s what Lionel and Cyn-dee Palacios of Pharr said of the annual Polar Bear Dip off the Island.
They make a family outing out of it.
This year, 12 members of the family, ranging in age from 7 to 40, all wearing orange, participated in the dip.
“Every year we wear orange,” Cyn-dee said.
Why? Because they stick out, of course. And they did.
Lionel wore a bright orange shirt with matching boardshorts and Cyn-dee wore a bright orange shirt with matching fuzzy orange hat.
Hundreds of people lined the beach outside Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill on New Year’s Day, ready to plunge into the teeth-chattering waters of the Gulf.
Dressed in costumes of all kinds, participants in the Polar Bear Dip braced for what was to come at noon — running into the waves.
Compared to similar events in states such as North Dakota, the SPI plunge was a cakewalk with semi-warm air and water temperatures.
In fact, the Island’s version is unofficially known as the nation’s warmest Polar Bear Dip.
However, Lionel said it’s still a cold temperature. He chattered his teeth at the thought of it.
“This is cold,” he said. “You know why? Because we’re used to 100-degree weather. So this is different.”
According to the National Weather Service in Brownsville, the temperature at South Padre during the noon plunge was in the upper 70s with a water temperature of 66 degrees. Compared to last year’s weather, it was a little warmer, with the air temperature then at 51 degrees and water temperature at approximately 62 degrees.
The beach event is more than just a party. Proceeds from the event are donated to local nonprofit organizations, including Friends of Animals Rescue, which was were there selling T-shirts and registering participants.
Shelter director Sherry Pindard said all the proceeds from the T-shirts will go toward the shelter, located at 4908 Padre Blvd.
For Pindard, events like this are important because it means animals will be taken care of and/or adopted.
“We take care of the lost and homeless animals and make sure they’re either reunited or getting a new forever home,” Pindard said.
Pindard, who like her colleagues at the shelter all wore polar bear onsies in celebration of the plunge, said they hoped to raise a couple thousand dollars.
Pindard hopes 2017 will be a great year for the shelter.
“We live in a great community and we have a bunch of people that live around us that donate to us. There are a lot of generous people around here,” she said.
KAYLEIGH SOMMER | STAFF WRITER