STOKES CO. – Starting a gym routine and new diet are common resolutions we make during the New Year. The Stokes County Arts Council gives those brave enough an opportunity to start the year in an unusual way: taking a plunge in 20-degree weather.

This is Travis Leonard's fourth time taking the plunge in his brown kilt to ring in the new year. And he has a tattoo of a plunging polar bear in a kilt with each year to prove it.

“I call it the Stokes County baptism,” Leonard said. “You go run in, jump in that water, you forget about everything that has bothered you from the previous year.”

Leonard is the president of the Old North State Beard Club, which donated a handmade leather and wood commemorative Polar Bear Plunge plaque up for bid.

The funds collected will be used to fund arts programs and activities in Stokes County.

After parading in kilts, tutus and Power Rangers costumes, participants at the 4th annual Hanging Rock Polar Plunge took a “refreshing dip” into the park's spring-fed lake with a plunge time temperature between 20 and 25 degrees.

“There's a lot of adventurous people out here, but it takes a special type of person go, 'Hey, it's 20 degrees outside, I'm gonna run into some 25-degree water,” Leonard said.

Right after the plunge, the soaking wet plungers enjoy some warm refreshments like hotdogs, chili, chicken stew, coffee and hot chocolate.

The most creative costumes won prizes in best youth, best individual and best group categories.

Registration was $25 for those who registered in advance and $35 the day of the event,

The first 100 registered received a commemorative scarf.

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