Blueberry Tri-Sport event offered a customizable format to participants
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout’s long-standing and popular Blueberry Festival event, the Blueberry Tri-Sport, continued to offer opportunities for community members to test their skills and enjoy some healthy athletic competition in a different format than usual, given the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Sioux Lookout resident and Mayor Doug Lawrance, who has been organizing this event with help from his family for about 10 years now, shared, “The Blueberry Triathlon/Tri-Sport event has been running for 32 years thanks to many, many people – organizers, helpers, supporters, sponsors, and of course participants.” He added, “The format this year allowed more time flexibility for participating, was COVID safe, and is certainly far less time demanding for the organizers.”
Blueberry Festival Coordinator Jessica Darling shared that this year’s event consisted of 21 participants. Blake MacKay completed the event’s three components – swimming, biking and running for the men’s category in 1 hour 09 minutes and 45 seconds, winning first place for this year’s Blueberry Tri-Sport. With a total time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 37 seconds, Lucy Manchester took home the first position for the women’s category. Jason Bailey, Joni Smith, and Ronda Bailey, taking a total of 2 hours 4 minutes and 36 seconds to complete their race, took the first position for team category. For the Try-a-Tri challenge, Meritt Penner, with a total of 49 minutes and 42 seconds was the winner of the men’s category, and Maelle Penner with a total of 1 hour 01 minutes and 28 seconds was the winner of the women’s category.
For the Team Try-a-Tri, Adelaide Meekis, Geneva Otto, and Emma Bates won first place taking a total of 1 hour 04 minutes and 14 seconds to finish their challenge.
Lawrance shared that although the first 30 years of the Triathlon were mass events, the last two years have spaced out the events to safely continue while following COVID guidelines. “The first Blueberry Triathlon was in 1989, so this was the 32nd – although due to COVID this year and last year we ran it on three separate days as a Tri-Sport event. This allowed participants to take part as individuals while avoiding the social gatherings, reducing risk, and meeting public health guidelines. For the first 30 years the Triathlon was a mass event held on one day from one central location. The original location was the Town Beach and then due to high demand for time and space at the Town Beach, about ten to fifteen years ago we moved it to the Forest Inn beach,” he shared.
This year’s event used the Travel Information Centre as the starting point for the biking and running events, setting out the swim buoys at Second Sandy Beach. All events were conducted on separate days between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., allowing participants the convenience to pick their preferred time to partake.
“Missing these past two years was the feeling of an event – lot’s of people participating, spectating, organizing, the sights and music of all that energetic activity condensed into three or four hours of stress, pain, competition, personal achievement, family fun and joy,” shared Lawrance. “In Sioux Lookout there are so many good events in the Blueberry Festival and throughout the year. It is important to have a variety of events that offer opportunities for engagement to a broad range of interests from cerebral to athletic, from individual to group, indoors and outdoors, crafting, dining, winter, summer. It has been a pleasure to be able to offer opportunities to participate in the Tri-Sports of swimming, biking, and running, while keeping the longest running triathlon in Northwestern Ontario going – even if in a different format,” he added.
Lawrance shared that no funding was required for either this year or last year’s Tri-Sport events, with everything being volunteer based. However, in previous years funding has been required to pay for timers, music, equipment, and miscellaneous items. Lawrance shared that the event has always received great sponsorships from local businesses, with the organizers and helpers contributing with their time, energy, and enjoyment in supporting this local event over the years.
Lawrance shared, “For next year we will be deciding whether to go back to the one day event based on two factors – first public health status and second the engagement of and hand-off to a new generation of organizers.”
With his family having conducted this event for almost a decade, Lawrance shared that they are now looking to hand it off to the next group, and are looking to see if anyone may step forward to continue this event in the future. “If you would like to keep it going, please contact me directly or through the Blueberry Triathlon Facebook page,” he shared. Lawrance can be reached via email at [email protected].