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Freedom Swim draws a crowd in Charlotte County

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Posted at 12:57 PM, Jul 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-04 13:26:13-04

CHARLOTTE HARBOR, Fla. -- Hundreds of swimmers and paddlers exercised their freedoms Tuesday morning as part of a unique annual tradition in Charlotte Harbor.

The 2017 Freedom Swim kicked off at 11 a.m. 

The loosely-organized event welcomes anyone who wants to take a dip and try to swim, or at least paddle, across the Peace River.

Participants launched at the base of the U.S. 41 bridge on the north side of the river, and made their way about a mile and a half towards Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda, where the party continues.

The event started in the early 90's, but there are stories of area youngsters making the rite of passage as far back as the 1940's.  There are even reports of some taking the 'freedom' aspect literally, making the swim in the buff.

Nowadays the event is more a celebration of life, with many participants taking leisurely jaunts across the water on a variety of vessels, including paddle boards, kayaks, inflatable floats, or even pool noodles.