Sixth-annual Iche Nippy Dip Day held at Ichetucknee Springs State Park

FORT WHITE, Fla. (WCJB) -- It's a tradition one man started more than 80 years ago, taking a quick dip in the Ichetucknee State park spring. Here's how that same man still takes a plunge every year at the Iche Nippy Dip Day, except now he has a few friends to join him.

At the age of 15, Earl Kinard used to sneak into the springs at the beginning of every year at dawn to swim in the waters he says to him resembles home.

"The way I came when I was 15, I walked. It's not but 2 and a half miles and for a country boy two and a half miles that's nowhere to walk, and i've been doing it ever since."

Six years ago, Earl says his son told park rangers what he was doing. However, instead of telling him to stop, they decided to carry on the tradition.

"Whenever they got hold of it they just said well let's make it a tradition so that's the way it got started. Now all these people are enjoying it and this is the only thing I can ever remember doing that I wasn't supposed to do that turned out good."

William Register is a Park Service Specialist and he explained why this event is good for the park, saying that "During the winter we want more people to come. We want people to know we're open year round. Just because it's cold, that water is the same temperature. You can still swim in it and have a great time. So we do these events to bring people here and let them enjoy the resource year round not just during the summer."

Marillee Malwitz-Jipson has been a "dipper" for five years now. She said "This is like the best thing in the world to do. It's so refreshing to do every year at this time, to start your whole new year off just right, in the water of the Ichetucknee springs. That's why I do it every year."

And the water temperature? Dippers say the colder it is outside, the better it feels inside.

Kinard said "if it's about 90 and you jump in there it feels like an icebox. But with weather like this, the colder the weather is the warmer the water feels when you get in it. However when you come out, and you're skinny dipping you reach for that towel and dry clothes as soon you can get it."

Malwitz-Jipson, while in the water, said "often going off some of the past experiences it's been like a hot tub because it's been extremely cold outside. This year a little unusual where the air is almost as warm as the water so it's a little not quite right."

To warm up those who made the plunge a citizen support organization provided hot food and beverages for sale. The money will be used to help day to day operations in the park.