Hundreds of people braved the frigid shores of the Great Lake at Bradford Beach to take the annual January 1 Polar Bear Plunge and usher in the New Year.

With an air temperature that averaged 24°, participants were greeted with a series of 2-foot waves. In spite of the weather, the conditions were far better than 2018. Last year saw sunny skies, but the beach area was encrusted with hazardous ice and a near record -14° windchill.

This year found more fire pits and camps spread along the length of the beach. Crowds entering the freezing water were displaced into smaller clusters as a result, instead of past years where people took the plunge in a more confined spot.

This video segment and photo essay captured the unique Milwaukee winter tradition, as community residents braved frigid conditions to join the first public event of the New Year.