“I jumped in for several years until I took over managing it,” said Tybee Post Theater executive director Melissa Turner. “Now I watch everyone else jump in. I can say from experience it is an exhilarating and very refreshing way to start your year off right!”
Organizers considered trying to beat their own record in the Guinness Book of World Records, set in 2012 for the largest gathering of people wearing swim caps (2,049). They looked at the record for an actual polar dip in a single venue, but the fine print said you have to guarantee the water temperature at or below 50 degrees, Turner said.
“Hence the word polar,” she added.
Of the 1,200 to 1,500 people who will show up, about 10 percent actually live on Tybee, Turner said. They come from all over. Last year’s winner of the Gang of Goofs costume contest was a team from Ohio, and they are expected to return.
The event is the second largest fundraiser for the theater, which began in the 1930s and remained idle from the 1960s until this year. After $2 million in renovations, the theater is now the home for concerts, plays and comedy shows, among other events.
“Friends of the Tybee Theater incorporated in 2001 with the mission to restore and reopen the theater,” she said. “The building had only half a roof.”
They hope to raise another $1 million to pay off the mortgage and construction loan, Turner said, and to expand the structure to include a list of add-ons such as dressing rooms in the back, a green room for performers doing live shows and theatrical drapes.
After expenses, including the purchase of official 2016 Tybee Polar Plunge long-sleeved T-shirts for those who register, they hope to net between $10,000 and $15,000.
Online registration is at www.tybeeposttheater.org. A new venue to sign up is at the Tybee Christmas Tree from noon-4 p.m. Dec. 27-31.
On Jan. 1, onsite registration starts at 9 a.m., the Gang of Goofs Costume Contest and Parade starts at 11 a.m. and the plunge itself is at noon.
“Last year, about 1,200 people took the plunge,” Turner said. “Several hundred more gathered around the shoreline and the pier. They didn’t go in the water, but they should have. The sun was out. It’s easy to warm up in a great big crowd like that.”
IF YOU GO
What: 16th annual Tybee Polar Plunge
When: Jan. 1; registration begins at 9 a.m., Gang of Goofs costume contest at 11 a.m. and plunge at noon
Where: Tybee Pier & Pavilion
Cost: Adults, $25, children 12 and younger, free; 10 percent discount for theater members
Info: 912-472-4790, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.tybeeposttheater.org