New Year polar plunge

Hundreds of folks from near and far started off 2009 with a shiver as they plunged into the 45-degree waters of Lake Washington New Year's day.

"I'm really scared," said Renton resident Julie Balza, who was dressed in a bikini, before the countdown to dash into the water.

During the Polar Plunge event, a wacky Kirkland tradition, participants took a quick dip into the chilly lake at Marina Park, under an overcast sky. Afterwards, they warmed up by bonfires and enjoyed a free cup of soup, compliments of the Wilde Rover Irish Pub.

Cody Jansen, of Prosser, Wash., sat on an overturned bucket next to the fire, rubbing his foot with a towel.

"It's actually not that bad," he said, after his dip into the lake. "The worst part is that your feet get really cold. Next year I'll wear my aqua socks."

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