Taking a dip in the Illinois River

By Beau Ebenezer

January 1, 2013 Updated Jan 3, 2013 at 2:51 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- It was 18 degrees on the bank of the Illinois River Tuesday afternoon.

One would think a heavy jacket and winter hat would be the proper attire, but what about swimsuits and sunscreen?

More than 300 people signed up to take the plunge into the new year, which was all part of the East Peoria Boat Club's 11th annual Polar Ice Plunge.

"It's a great way for people to come out and enter the new year by doing something a little wild and crazy. Again, coming out in 18 degrees and jumping into the icy cold Illinois River," said Polar Plunge Chair Kelli Peterson.

While it was hard to tell if some were excited or just trying to stay warm, for Morton native Matthew Kopp, it was just a typical New Years day.

"We've done it for a quite a few years, so we are actually used to it. It's a good time. It actually feels good and it was a little warmer this year than we expected," said plunge veteran Matthew Kopp.

Others made the trip all the way from Chicago for the first time to see what all the noise was about.

Jim Smiley was all smiles with his 10-year-old son, Jack Sauder, as they shared their first plunge together, disco style.

"Awesome. First time I've done it. It was the coldest thing I've ever done in my life. We'll do it again. We'll have some people joining us to do it next year," said Smiley.

The East Peoria Boat Club raised $100,000 last year for various organizations including South Side Mission and Tazewell County Resource Center.

Organizers hope with this years frigid plunge they will see more of the same.

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