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THE NATION

New Year Dashes of Wet and Whimsy

January 02, 2004|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The new year marched in with Mummers parading as Martha Stewart and a shackled Saddam Hussein, while elsewhere in America revelers took part in a different New Year's Day tradition: jumping into icy water for a quick "polar bear" swim.

About 12,000 elaborately costumed men and women strutted through Philadelphia in the annual Mummers Parade, where many of the string bands strummed the traditional "Oh Dem Golden Slippers."

This year's party along Broad Street also featured people dressed like Philadelphia Flyer hockey players.

Stewart, and the FBI bug found in Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street's office during the last election campaign, also came in for spoofs from the parasol-waving participants.

"The crowd was very welcoming to us and it felt great," said Peter Broomall, head of the Broomall String Band.

While many parade-goers huddled and shivered in the overnight cold to reserve prime viewing spots, hundreds of other revelers stripped to swim suits and pretended they were polar bears, including hundreds who took quick dips in Lake Michigan at Milwaukee and Lake Minnetonka outside Minneapolis.

About 500 swimmers braved Boston Harbor -- water temperature 42 degrees Fahrenheit -- then dashed back to hot showers and saunas as about 1,500 bundled-up spectators cheered them on for the 100th consecutive New Year's Day Polar Plunge.

"It's the biggest adrenaline rush you'll ever get," Dennis Guilfoyle, 32, of Dedham, Mass., said later as he and his friends warmed up in a pub.

Hundreds of others braved the 39-degree water of Lake Coeur d'Alene during the 25th annual Polar Bear Plunge in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Most of the celebrating was over in New York City, where about 750,000 people had gathered in Times Square for the annual New Year's Eve festivities.

The revelers were ushered away from Times Square as quickly as possible so sanitation workers could clean up about 28 tons of party hats, noisemakers, confetti, paper streamers and other trash. By daylight, the streets were clean and reopened to traffic.

In Portland, Ore., snow made stretches of Interstate 5 "if not completely impassable, then temporarily blocked because of cars that have spun out," said Dave Thompson, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

For the first time in years, chains were required on all 300 miles of I-5 through the state.

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