Running headlong into the Gulf of Mexico was a great way to start 2021.
Nearly 100 people thought so, anyway, as they gathered Jan. 1 on the shore at Cortez Beach, between Fourth and Twelfth streets south along Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, for Clancy’s 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.
Though the noon sky was clear and the temperature on the beach 82 degrees, plunger James Lightfoot of Bradenton said the water was cold.
“This is the first time I did this, and the water was cold, but I’m glad I did it,” Lightfoot said after emerging from the Gulf.
NOAA’s water temperature table for the Gulf of Mexico put the temp at about 65 degrees.
Lightfoot, dressed as Ace Ventura, was one of more than a dozen people dressed in costume for a crowd-judged contest.
What got the most laughs and love from the crowd? A group of friends donning costumes and holding signs that expressed their opinion of 2020.
Mark Gritz wore an inflatable poop emoji costume while his wife, Patty, was made up as a bottle of hand sanitizer and friends Robert Nott and Shona LaBaff wore giant rolls of toilet paper messages.
Barry Hopkins dressed as a chicken and laid (dropped) yellow plastic eggs on the beach to the onlookers' delight. His wife, RuthAnn, arrived as Superwoman “to save the day.”
Other costumed plungers taking part in the contest were dinosaurs, a man in a hospital gown open in back to reveal a fake tush and some hula dancers.
The plunge began in 2009 with a group of friends who frequented Clancy’s outdoor Tiki Bar and preferred to do something fun to raise money for charity as an alternative to the traditional holiday parties, Rayma Stowe said.
Stowe — past proprietor of the Rod & Reel Pier — is a founding member of the event and her Bradenton restaurant and bar, Clancy’s Irish Pub and Sports Bar, 6218 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, annually sponsors and hosts the event, which includes an after-party with music, raffles and food and beverages.
“It’s a fun way to start the new year,” Stowe said.
“And it keeps us off the streets New Year’s Eve,” joked Lisa Pierce, Stowe’s friend and another founder of the charity event.
Over the years, Clancy’s has helped raise $273,500 with the Shamrock Shiver.
The Islander newspaper was a sponsor this year.
The 2020 shiver proceeds, which Stowe estimated at more than $25,000, will be divided among four local charities: The Blessing Bags Project, Feeding Empty Little Tummies, Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County and Parenting Matters.
Donations will be accepted until at least Jan. 8 — either at Clancy’s or online at clancysirishsportspub.com, Pierce said.
For more information, go to clancysirishsportspub.com or call Stowe at 941-720-4072.