Since 1974, the Ironman has been one of the rowdiest events in the South Bay, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has put the Fourth of July Hermosa Beach tradition on hiatus.

But to keep the “spirit of patriotism, camaraderie and charity” in its 46th year, the Ironman will host a commemorative T-shirt fundraiser on Friday, July 3, between 1 and 6 p.m. on Cypress Avenue between 6th and 8th Street. All proceeds of the sale of the shirt will benefit people affected by COVID-19 in the community.

The Ironman featured a mile run, a mile paddle, followed by chugging a six-pack of beer, as contestants suffered the consequences. Former Hermosa Beach Mayor Robert “Burgie” Benz competed in his first Ironman in 1979 and will be on hand Friday to support the fundraiser.

He called the Ironman the “antithesis of social distancing.”

“There's a lot of other people just like me, we just don't have the 14 days to quarantine ourselves after puking on each other, you know,” Benz said. “Typically we have a day to get rid of our hangover and that's the way it is. But 14 days to isolate ourselves after doing the event, it's just not worth it.”

“I know people are bummed about it,” Benz added.

Annie Seawright, who has won the event 15 times since she first started competing in 1993, said the Ironman has been one her favorite traditions of the year.

“I am trying to stay positive and think that when we can all come back next year we will appreciate it more than ever,” Seawright said.

Seawright said the fundraiser keeps the spirit of the Ironman alive.

“The Ironman is mostly known for being a unique festive celebration and (for some) a competitive event, but there's also a strong community side to it as well,” Seawright wrote in an email. “Not only is it an annual reunion for many of us locals, but we've also raised thousands of dollars for local charities over the past decade.”

Shelby Benz is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University who is one of many who work behind the scenes to keep the Ironman an annual tradition, The daughter of Burgie, Shelby has sung the national anthem at Ironman since she was 6 years old.

“The Ironman is the quintessential bonhomie experience of the South Bay,” said Shelby by email. “I have been lucky enough to attend the event every single year of my life, and it has truly shaped me to become the person I am today. Every year, the camaraderie, patriotism and spirit embodied by the event make me proud to be a part of the Hermosa Beach community and family.”

For the T-shirt sale on July 3, they will be accepting Venmo payments to @Patricia-Benz and cash between 1 and 6 p.m. T-shirts are $20. They are also accepting pre-orders and taking out of town orders, but charging $22 per shirt to cover postage.

Bandanas will also be sale for $10 and some older Ironman shirts. A pop-up station with the commemorative T-shirt artist, Chelsea Stambler, from the South Bay in attendance with some of her work will also be part of the festivities. Jol Design, located in Hermosa Beach, printed the T-shirts.

Benz said social distancing will be strictly enforced and they encourage attendees to tag #ironman2020 with their T-shirts and posting on the Ironman Instagram and Facebook pages.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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