Ironman competition helps Santa Rosa businesses recover from wildfires

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High winds are still a painful reminder for residents of the devastating wildfires of last October. Many are still struggling to recover. But this weekend, a major event is pumping positive energy and dollars into the community. (KGO-TV)

High winds are still a painful reminder for residents of the devastating wildfires of last October. Many are still struggling to recover. But this weekend, a major event is pumping positive energy and dollars into the community.

If swimming, biking, and running long distances is your thing, the Ironman triathlon says "bring it."

"We have 2,000 athletes from 47 countries," said Ironman Director Dave Reid.

RELATED: North Bay fire debris cleanup is '99 percent' complete

It's the second year Ironman has staged its race across Sonoma County. The region, still recovering from the wildfires last year, needed this huge event.

"Since the beginning of the year, things have been slow, bouncing back," said Santa Rosa merchant Kelley Rajala.

Rajala has put out the welcome sign at her Santa Rosa craft store.

Gray Rollin plans to serve a lot of beer and food at his restaurant, Belly, this weekend. It's been a challenging year. "It shows Sonoma County and Santa Rosa is growing and coming back better than ever."
RELATED: Lemons bring hope back to residents burned out by North Bay fires

"It's a great community," said Ironman participant Dan Trawicki. "We couldn't be in a better place. I'm from Wisconsin, it's fantastic."

Sadly, some businesses never recovered after the fires. For Lucy Gustafson's French chocolate shop, she'll close this weekend after six years in business. "It's not an easy decision," she said. "It doesn't make sense to keep pushing when you know it's going to take longer for the community to come back."

Elsewhere, things are looking up and coming back. This weekend, the finish line is in sight.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay fires.
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