The Brave Visionary Behind the
Polar Bear Plunge
By Joanna Heston
Feb. 18, 1995. Despite the 35-degree water, 70-year-old Dr. Irene Jameson, a retired educator who served as Sea Isle City’s public relations director from 1989-2007, led a small group of people into the Atlantic Ocean for the first annual Polar Bear Plunge. Whether it was her iconic fur coat (which she removed before getting wet) or her festive spirit, Jameson established one of the biggest winter events at the Jersey Shore regardless of those thinking the idea was crazy at the time.
From plunging with a handful of participants in 1995 to hosting more than 2,000 registered plungers for the 25th edition of the event in 2019, Jameson’s vision and forward thinking created a tradition for family and friends for many years to come.
Over the years, the Original Polar Bear Queen dressed in cheerful costumes that were revealed under her fur coat year after year. Some of these included Ms. Jersey Girl, a Hawaiian princess, Miss Sea Isle and a flapper, though she might be most remembered for sporting her white bikini and blond wig.
Although she passed away in 2015, we will always remember the vibrant Polar Bear Queen and how much she loved Sea Isle City, especially every Presidents Day weekend when thousands roll into town for the Polar Bear Plunge.
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