Couple take the plunge during Polar Bear outing
Judy Herilla and Adam Lipinski knew they'd get cold feet on their wedding day -- along with cold legs, cold arms and everything else.
The happy couple and hundreds of others leapt into the muddy, misty and frigid Monongahela River on New Year's Day, not long after Herrilla and Lipinski exchanged vows on a water taxi that pulled up to the Mon Wharf for the Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club's annual dip.
"It's symbolic to us of embarking into the future together, plunging into the future," said Herilla, 35, of Springdale, who avoided a waterlogged wedding dress by donning a swimsuit with a long, purple-and-white tutu and her veil. Lipinski wore shorts and a T-shirt with a tuxedo printed on it.
Herilla and Lipinski had planned on getting married Nov. 11, 2011, so their anniversary would be 11-11-11, but decided to move it up to Jan. 1 to maintain the pattern of repeating ones in the date. They considered getting married while camping in the woods, but figured it would be too cold -- so they jumped into the 37-degree river instead.
The two are no strangers to the cold: Herilla said she is one of the co-founders of Frostburn, an icy, East Coast counterpart to the "Burning Man" festival held every year in the Nevada desert. At the last Frostburn, the couple splashed in the icy creek near the Coopers Lake Campground in Slippery Rock.
So many other aspiring polar bears showed up at the Mon Wharf that they had to jump in and out of the river in waves. Thick, gooey mud covered the new riverside walking path from the last time the river had flooded, in late November, causing some slips and slides that couldn't detract from the happy mood.
"It was kind of gross because there's a stream of mud going in," said Christine McCauley, 27, of Hutchinson, who planned to dry off and warm up before going to the Winter Classic. "We'd been talking about doing this all year, crossing it off our 'bucket list,' and I couldn't let my boyfriend do it without me."
Costumes were common, including fake polar bear fur, superheroes, body paint and Santa hats. Jeff Wilinski of Brookline extolled the beauty and virtues of Pittsburgh before leaping in wearing red and green body paint and a tiny, tinsel Christmas tree atop his head.
Scott Walton, 41, of Blairsville jumped in wearing a full-body, fake-muscled Green Lantern costume, but instead of keeping him warmer, the comic-book costume felt like it weighed him down as he plunged into the river, he said.
"The water tasted a little weird," said Walton, owner of The Vault Comics & Games in Greensburg. "You couldn't help but get it in your mouth, because you're gasping for air the minute you hit."
"It's cold. ... It sucks the life right out of you," said Bob Walters, 42, of Beechview, whose brother Pat convinced him to take his first dip. "But I'll definitely do it again."
Nick Gigliotti, 22, was a Marine returning from Iraq when he first got the notion to do the plunge in 2009. Yesterday, his second dip, felt colder compared to last year's event, but he had a fellow Marine and friends by his side.
"We were in transit back from Iraq when we saw it on the Internet and knew we had to do it," Gigliotti said. "It's a big wake-up, and it's a good time."
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.