Penguins Splash In The New Year

Time was when the only holiday celebrating at Ocean City, Md., was done by the seagulls feasting on a washed-up fish in the surf.
Today, human tourists and locals who partied all summer long make their way to the beach for some holiday cheer of their own.
These visitors are discovering the joy of fireworks over the waves followed by watching the first sunrise of the year, in all its glory and colorful reflection on the cold waves.
As part of Ocean City’s “Winterfest of Lights,” the Avenue of Trees along Baltimore Avenue between 15th and 32nd streets is aglow as part of more than 1 million holiday lights and animated displays sparkling throughout town.
And like the holiday glow brightening every street corner, New Year’s Eve is a townwide celebration at any of the hundreds of hotels and restaurants that have marked memorable times for summer visitors.
Many downtown hotels such as Howard Johnson’s Beachfront Hotel at 12th Street offer New Year’s Eve packages and Winterfest packages.
At the iconic Carousel Resort Hotel, famous for its indoor ice rink in the lobby, an affordable New Year’s Eve package features a retro 1970’s party with DJ, open bar, hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast at midnight.
“There will also be a balloon drop with party favors and a two-night stay included in the package price,” noted Carousel’s catering director, Kim R. Heffner.
Other large hotels offering spectacular packages are Clarion Resort, Dunes Manor, The Grand Hotel, The Edge & Lighthouse Club Hotel at Fager’s Island and the Princess Royale.
The Princess Royal is also the site of a great Ocean City New Year’s Day tradition. The “Sixteenth Annual Penguin Swim” is a fundraising event to benefit the nearby Berlin’s Atlantic General Hospital Foundation. Hospital spokeswoman, Amy Unger, noted that the 2009 swim “…raised over $73,000 in support of the hospital’s mission, ‘To provide quality care, personalized service and education to improve individual and community health.'”
But the philanthropic aspect of “The Penguin Swim” is only the half of it. The event is fun! Participants gather at the hotel at 12:00 pm to register for the 1:00 pm plunge. Afterwards, prizes and refreshments are given out in the atrium area of the hotel’s lobby.
“It works very much like a walk-a-thon,” said Toni Keiser, Vice President of Public Relations at the hospital. “The swimmers get sponsors and they’re off.”
The brave-hearted “penguins” can wear wet suits if they like, or they can play it safe and just dip one toe into the surf.
“Over the years I have watched [the fundraiser] grow with visitors from Baltimore, Washington and New York, “Keiser continued. “It’s become an annual tradition.”

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