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Thousands celebrate New Year in Lake George's icy waters

Drawn by balmy temperatures to the annual Lake George New Year's Day Polar Plunge, about 2,000 revelers took to the 34-degree lakewaters in three waves of swimmers.

Drawn by balmy temperatures to the annual Lake George New Year's Day Polar Plunge, about 2,000 revelers took to the 34-degree lakewaters in three waves of swimmers. Tim Weatherwax/One Shot Photography

— Another cohort, Mark Darrigo, offered his view on the frigid experience.

“I't a natural euphoric experience – an incredible 'high' – without drugs.”

While many were standing in line, others were waiting on the beach, greeting strangers, sharing their thoughts and fears.

Bikini-clad Erin Madden of Saratoga stood shivering, as her partner Dave Wronowski rubbed her arms to boost her temperature.

“This is my first time doing it, and I'm really scared,” she said.

Soon after, one of the three waves of 700 or more swimmers charged into the 34-degree waters. Among them were a half-dozen members of the Fraternal Order of Leatherheads – firefighters from the Capital Region. Kicking their legs high, wearing only shorts and fire helmets, they laughed and yelled while splashing. They've participated in the polar swim for four years, their leader said.

“It's a tradition of our brotherhood, and we have a ball doing it,” he said. “Also, we like supporting the Lake George community groups that benefit.

Among those benefiting this year were local food pantries, organizer Linda Duffy said. The $10-per-person registration donation pays for the long-sleeved commemorative plunge shirts, and a portion goes towards expenses of Lake George Winter Carnival. The remainder is donated to various charities, Duffy said.

“We've had an amazing turnout this year,” she said.

Last in line as a registered swimmer for the 2012 New Year polar plunge was Janna Mackley of Schenectady. She said the long wait in line was worth it.

“You only live once,” she said with a grin.

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