New Yearís Day revelers jump into the
Upper Nemahbin Lake channel Jan. 1 during the polar bear jump held
at Nelsonís Channel Inn in the town of Summit. Nelsonís
Channel Inn is no longer open for business but the jumpers will be
at the channel Tuesday to once again take part in the icy ritual.
Splashing in the waters of the Upper
Nemahbin Lake channel, New Yearís Day revelers take part in the
polar bear jump held at Nelsonís Channel Inn in the town of
TOWN OF SUMMIT - After Nelsonís Channel Inn closed in August,
residents in the town of Summit were concerned the annual polar bear jump
into Upper Nemahbin Lake was doomed to extinction.
Tavern owners near the lake said by October they were beginning to
receive numerous phone calls and questions every day asking if they could
keep the tradition alive. Fortunately for them, Jeff Stoll, owner of
Stolleyís Hogg Alley, stepped forward to save the day.
"I just decided that the show must go on," Stoll said.
"And the funds will still be going to a good cause."
Stollís tavern is located on the Bark River, but the event will take
place at the old Nelsonís Channel Inn property at 34422 Delafield Road,
because the developer who owns it gave him permission to hold the event
Stoll said the event is important to the community, and because it acts
as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, it helps raise money for a
worthwhile cause. A minimum $20 donation is required to jump in the lake.
The Oconomowoc rugby club is also helping the event proceed, Stoll
said, because they provided a $250 donation and have volunteered to work
as security and will clean up.
The event almost didnít happen. Stoll said people began inquiring
about the event during the fall and he had to get approval from the town
well in advance. He was able to get approval on the last possible date.
"I didnít realize that there was this much support, but we kept
getting calls and even (Christmas night) I had a guy in asking about it.
"I think people just wanted to know what was going on and because
there are still two bars in the area, it was expected that one of us had
to keep it going."
Stoll said he has not talked directly with Mike Nelson, former owner of
the Channel Inn, however he had talked to his wife to get materials on
organizing the event. Nelson couldnít be reached for comment.
While the town of Summit event is enjoying a revival, the annual polar
bear event in Muskego is expected to have a record turnout on New Yearís
The "Polar Plunge" at Muskego County Park drew 500 polar
bears and 500 to 700 spectators in 2007, and turnout is expected to exceed
that this year. Organizer Spring Breitzman said they have prepared larger
tents with more heat for swimmers.
Like the Summit event, proceeds go to charity. Last year Breitzman said
they raised $125,000 for the Special Olympics.
While Breitzman said she still hasnít taken the plunge herself, sheís
not surprised by the large number of Waukesha residents that are willing
to jump into freezing water for fun or the people who come out to watch.
"I think people are just intrigued by what it would be like to
jump into water that cold," she said. "Besides, it goes to a
good cause and I think that helps get people out there."
Joe Petrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org