MANATEE -- With AC/DC blasting on the stereo of the antique fire truck, whose passengers included a mermaid, a hula girl and a very tall man in a penguin outfit, it could mean only one thing.
The onslaught of the fifth annual Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge.
The fire truck, a 1955 American LaFrance, hauled a portion of the smiling, waving participants from Clancy's Irish Pub on Cortez Road to Bradenton Beach for the annual New Year's Day tradition.
The spectacle brought smiles and waves along the route from walkers and motorists. One woman in a van with Ontario plates leaned out her window, turned backward and took a photo of the merry pranksters riding on the fire truck behind her.
In all, 71 waders jumped into the surf at noon to raise money for Caring for Children Charities.
Clancy's owner, Rayma Stowe, says the memory that may stay with her longest is of JoJo DeVito, John Keilly and Barry Smith helping their friend Mike Delaney into the water.
Delaney, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident a few years ago, took off his prosthetic limb to enter the surf.
Delaney said the plunge seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate the new year and to help others.
"This was an incredible turnout from the community," said Stowe, who runs Clancy's with her husband, Mel. "We had 71 take the plunge this year. I think that is incredible."
Liza Gorin, one of the original group of friends who started the plunge, said the idea was born during Thanksgiving five years ago. With just six weeks of planning, they were able to pull together the first plunge in Bradenton Beach, and have since raised thousands of dollars for charity.
"We are all transplants and retirees," Gorin said. "Clancy's became our second home."
Organizers, who were filled with hope in spite of the lingering bad economy, estimated they raised at least $19,000.
"People give what they can," Gorin said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet@jajones1.