Wildflower takes a year off

Triathlon's growth over its first generation was propelled by the rising up of certain races that stood as monuments over all the others. At or near the top was the Wildflower Triathlon and its organizer announced to day that the race would not be held in 2017.

Five years of drought drained the reservoir where the swim traditionally took place, and fewer competitors attended the event each of the past 5 years. The race organizer did hold out hope for a return:

"When the drought is over and the water levels are normal," said Tri California's Terry Davis, "we hope to return The Wildflower Triathlon back to the iconic event that it was and is."

At its peak the Olympic, Long Course and MTB races at this venue hosted north of 7,000 registrants, and altogether about 30,000 people flocked to camp and spend 3 or 4 days at the Lake San Antonio venue in California's Central Coast, forming a small city.

In the beginning, there was the Wildflower Festival, without a triathlon. It was a bluegrass music festival with arts and crafts. In 1983 a triathlon was added and it attracted 86 contestants. The following year 200 athletes showed up, and the race banner read, "Wildflower Triatholon and Festival."

The race was not privately owned. At the time Mr. Davis was an employee at the Monterey County Parks Department, running the event as part of his duties. In 1985 the County mandated that the money-losing event turn a profit or at least break even, or else the race would not be continued. That year the race attracted 350 athletes and as many spectators, and that was enough to keep the County interested.

By 1989 attendance topped 1,000 and the bluegrass festival was having a hard time finding room to continue. In 1996 the number of registrants topped 3,000, and by the turn of the century 4,000. The race continued to grow, to 5,000 and 6,000, with total race-related park attendance topping 30,000.

Terry Davis had by that time moved out of County employment and was a full-time event producer. Olympic distance and MTB races were added back in the 90s, and total registrations topped 7,500 by the 2006.

Not only are the Wildflower events gone, Tri California will not produce any triathlons in 2017, including Scott Tinley’s Triathlon at Lake Lopez in San Luis Obispo - also a victim of the drought - Pacific Grove Tri and Treasure Island Tri.