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FALMOUTH, N.S. – 2019 is here, and West Hants residents welcomed it with open arms, hugs, and screams.

The screaming was mainly from the frigid waters as brave souls waded into a mostly frozen Lake Pisiquid.

Claire Naugler, 12, participated in her first polar bear dip. She said the first time she went in, it wasn’t that bad — but when she went in for a second time, it wasn’t as nic.

“I went in for a second time, because, I don’t know I just felt like it,” Claire said with a laugh. “I’ll definitely do it next year.”

Erin Naugler joined her daughter in the lake for her third dip.

“We went in for the second time, mostly because our friend wanted to as well, some moral support,” Erin said. “I’ve only missed one year of this so far.”

Erin said she keeps coming back because it’s about pushing personal boundaries.

“It’s something that’s outside of what’s comfortable and normal,” Erin said.

Kathy Johnston-Isenor, one of the organizers of the dip, said the event started with a “crazy group of friends” four years ago.

“We were just sort of daring each other to jump in on New Year’s Day,” Johnston-Isenor said. “It’s continued to grow since then, including a lot of friends and community members.”

Funds were also being collected for a new initiative expected to begin later in 2019.

“It’s always the anticipation of getting in the water that’s the worst part. Once you’re in, it’s a rush,” she said.

“You get wrapped up in towels, head home for a warm shower and then can’t wait for next year,” she continued.

“It’s a celebration of your year that was and an exciting way to look ahead to the next,” she said. “Life is about taking risks and enjoying every moment, and in those scary moments is sometimes when you learn the most about yourself.” Johnston-Isenor

Levee tradition carries on in Hantsport

Meanwhile in Hantsport, Toni Heatley, a member of the Hantsport and Area Historical Society, helped organize the annual levee.

It’s the first levee the Hantsport and Area Historical Society has hosted at the McDade Heritage Centre.

They’ll be alternating the role of host each year, rotating with the Hantsport Public Library and HMCC.

“The heritage society is happy to follow in the Canadian tradition of New Year’s levees, welcoming in the New Year and to make our wishes for the very best for 2019,” she said.

“For the Heritage society, we want to continue to increase our membership and continue to let people know of the resources we have here,” she said. “It’s extraordinary what’s in this building and what’s been hidden for decades, now available for public view.”

Sir Graham Day offered the first toast of the levee, to Queen Elizabeth II, providing some of the history behind the levee’s origins.

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