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Take The Plunge

Thanksgiving Day Swim

Thanksgiving Day Swim

Around 8 a.m. Dick and MJ open their front door to welcome all ages to participate in the Annual Thanksgiving Day Swim. They’ve organized the neighborhood tradition of taking a dip in the river for 27 years.

This is New England. It’s cold in the early morning. Air temps in the 20s or 30s is typical; water temperature, 40s or 50s. Snow and ice floats always a possibility. A Turkey Day swim is not for the thin skinned.

The swimmers arrive, dressed head toe in warm gear, towels draped around their necks, some with just a bathrobe to cover their swim suit. Boots and flip flops are both appropriate footwear.

All swimmers sign the guest book -– a signature binds the swimmer to take the plunge. A warm drink, breakfast treats, and then the year’s group gathers outside for a photo.

The procession of swimmers and spectators makes its way through the neighborhood to the river’s edge. For many it’s a reunion. Kids who’ve grown up and left return for the holiday weekend and the swim. As the years pass, older folks (now spectators) give way to another generation.


There’s no official announcement, no whistle, no ready-set-go shotgun. Swimmers peel away the layers and (depending on the tide) walk across large rocks to the hard sand and the waiting river.

Spectators, who often outnumber the swimmers, cheer on their braver neighbors and friends.

Swimmers dunk in and run out. The hardiest (or warmed by liquor) show off with a few leisurely strokes. They wrap themselves in towels and blankets, their frigid baptism complete.

One teenage girl shivered: “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” followed by, “and it was awesome!”


Images: Stephanie DelTorchio

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