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SULLIVAN'S ISLAND -- Thousands of people, dressed in every conceivable costume and yelling at the top of their lungs, raced toward the ocean for the 20th annual Dunleavy's Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday afternoon.

Unlike the shivery test of courage that polar bear plungers faced in many other cities around the nation, bathers here enjoyed gorgeous blue skies and a sunny 67 degrees.

"We were kind of hot before (the plunge)," said Alex Cook of Mount Pleasant, who showed up in pink flannel bunny rabbit pajamas. "I was looking forward to jumping into the cool water."

Of course, they don't know what the weather is going to be like when they're out taking pledges. The plunge raised money for the Special Olympics, which holds athletic contests for people with intellectual disabilities.

George Newsom of Goose Creek showed up in a bright green superhero's costume.

"It seems like a nice day, but I was going to do it nonetheless," he said before the plunge.

Participants and onlookers also dropped money into buckets on their way to the beach.

There was no estimate of how much money was raised Sunday. Paula Byers, marketing and development director for Special Olympics in the Lowcountry, was confident the total would surpass last year's amount of $50,000.

"It's been growing every year," she said.

Russell Clarke and Jill Kwasny, both of Mount Pleasant, raised $2,545, just between the two of them.

"It was easy this year," Clarke said. "Last year it was really cold."

There was also no way to say how many participated Sunday, because there is no registration. But it's certain the number was in the thousands. The crowd extended for hundreds of yards along the beach as participants waited for the signal to hit the water.

Dunleavy's Pub hosts the plunge, which really amounts to a big costume party up and down Middle Street before and after the rush to the ocean.

Police blocked off Middle Street around the pub to traffic, clearing the way for a big street party.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.