OCEAN CITY — Boasting its largest crowd yet, over a thousand participants braved the 42-degree ocean water for First Dip as Ocean City held its 23rd annual First Day at the Beach on Thursday, Jan. 1 at the Moorlyn Terrace beach.
This year, the event was sponsored by the HERO Campaign and hundreds of First Dip plungers made a commitment to be a designated driver before running into the frigid water of the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day.
Bill Elliott, co-founder of the HERO Campaign, said that about 664 people registered for First Dip. However, according to Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and First Night committee director Michele Gillian, about double the number of registrants participate. She said that this year’s First Day at the Beach had the highest attendance in the event’s 23-year history.
“Last year, I think we had 890 swimmers,” she said.
In addition to First Dip, First Day includes a 5K run on the boardwalk and a downtown shopping extravaganza. Gillian said that about 700 runners and walkers registered for the 5K.
“First Day at the Beach has grown every year. Twenty-three years ago, we went from 80 people down the beach and maybe 100 runners at the most, to thousands of people running into the water and hundreds of people running the race, which is a great thing,” she said. “It’s a great way to start off your new year.”
Gillian said the partnership with the HERO Campaign was extremely successful, and helped to bring more participants to Ocean City.
Elliott estimated that over 2,500 people came out to participate in First Day.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “Even though it was a little cool and windy, it didn’t seem to deter people.”
This was the first year that the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers has partnered with the city for First Day. In the past, the campaign has been a beneficiary of First Night, Ocean City’s family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration which precedes First Day.
One of the goals of the partnership was to have individuals make a pledge to be a designated driver as part of the HERO Campaign’s 100,000 HEROES Challenge, which kicked off in October at the fourth annual HERO Walk on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
“We probably got a couple hundred people to pledge,” Elliot said.
He said the other goal of the partnership was to promote awareness, which was accomplished.
“People became aware of the HERO Campaign; people were asking about it,” Elliott said. “It was a good day.”
The HERO Campaign was able to sponsor First Day thanks to a contribution from Shore Orthopaedic University Associates in Somers Point.
“We’re delighted to be part of the event and with the turnout. We’re looking forward to next year,” Elliott said.
As for First Night, Gillian said the annual event was also thriving.
“We had a great first night. Attendance was up,” she said, with the total number of attendees at 9,400, just 600 buttons shy of selling out. “Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the fireworks capped off the show.”
With temperatures in the teens on Wednesday evening, Gillian said she was impressed with the turnout. Although many of the First Night activities are inside, they are located at venues throughout the city and some are outdoors, like the rides, ice skating and fireworks.
“When you bundle up, it really works,” she said.
First Night featured over 30 shows and activities, including six new events, Gillian said.
“They really worked out, we had comedian, we had a mentalist,” she said.
In addition, for the second year, First Night offered ice skating on a synthetic ice rink, which Gillian said has been a big success.
“It all worked out,” she said.
For more photos, see: Ocean City and HERO Campaign host 2015 First Dip