A year after a major fire postponed the event, Ness Lake Bible Camp's annual polar bear dip was back on schedule Tuesday.
Nearly 40 people celebrated New Year's Day by dropping into decidedly chilly water and then emerging into a decidedly subzero temperature in the -13 to -15 C range.
A torrent of whoops and yells from participants and spectators alike marked the event and although the turnout was on the small side - as many as 80 people have taken the plunge in past years - but Ness Lake Bible Camp program director Dave Horton was not complaining as just 30 showed up for last year's delayed edition.
"We had to move last year's [polar bear dip] into February and so the numbers were definitely lower last year," Horton said. "It's a New Year's tradition and so when it's not on New Year's Day then people just don't take part as much.
Those who took the plunge did not regret the moment.
"I wish I could do that every morning, it wakes you up better than coffee," said an elated Scott McWalter, 28, as he warmed up in the dining hall with a cup of hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun.
Sarah Bonnar, 32, who made the leap dressed up as a hockey mom, decked out in pink Canucks regalia, said it was not as bad as she thought it would be although she instantly lost sense in her toes.
"It was exhilarating," she said.
The most tentative of the bunch were four teenagers - Elyse Donck, 18, from Belgium, Natalia Peres, 17, from Brazil, Francesca Gozzi, 17, and Kim Vogt, 16, of Germany - all spending their school years in Prince George through the Rotary Club exchange program.
But following a couple of false starts, they were in the water.
"We were thinking 'why, why are we doing this? We are already frozen,'" said Donck. "But we did it because we had to do it."
Last year's edition was postponed for more than a month because a fire had leveled the camp's gymnasium. Fast forward to Tuesday and a brand new and significantly larger building is now in place with work on the finishing touches now underway inside.
It features a new and improved climbing wall, a basketball court and a stage so it can serve as the chapel, and thanks to the additional space, offices, washrooms and storage space.
"It will be way more usable than the old gym was," said camp director Andrew Milton.
Dressed as a caped "Super Dad" and with 11-and-a-half-month old daughter Szavanna in hand, Jeff Peterhans-Dube won the costume contest. He wisely passed Szavanna off to her mother before he entered the water.
Second was Jeremy Walker, who donned a outfit made out of duct tape, and third was Tammy Solomonson, dressed as Mini Mouse.
At least $3,000 was raised and at $650, Brian Joyce, the pastor at the Central Fellowship Baptist Church was the top fundraiser. Proceeds cover the cost of hosting the children from families who can afford to send their kids to summer camp.