It was the bikini contest that wasn’t.
Nobody really knows the reason - whether bad weather drove away the women clad in swimsuits, whether lack of advertising failed to bring them in or whether a gust of modesty suddenly blew over the crowd.
At noon Sunday, only one woman had registered for the bikini contest at Spokane Raceway Park. The event was supposed to be a lunch break from the American Hot Rod Association World Finals.
For the first time in the 16-year history of the American Dream Calendar Girl bikini competition, not enough women showed up. The prize - a trip to the Bahamas to compete in a worldwide contest against about 60 women - was left unclaimed.
And there stood Trina Helean, all dressed down in a bikini and no place to go.
“No way, don’t tell me that,” Helean said when she heard that no others had signed up in time for the contest’s planned noon start. “I don’t want to be the only one down there in a bikini.”
The contest was postponed, as volunteers recruited willing contestants and organizers looked for a car to drive them. Security guards tried to recruit contestants in the parking lot, but the women refused and at least one man threatened to punch a guard.
For a time, Helean appeared to be the only competitor.
“We do have one contestant,” said Jill Harth, director for the American Dream Calendar. “She’s going to be there as a demonstration. We’re going to put her out there for the crowd.”
Two others finally decided to enter. One of the late entrants, Renna Anderson, of Summerland, British Columbia, made her own bikini out of red Jordache underwear and a cut-up World Finals T-shirt.
Organizers were stunned by the lack of entries for a slot in the 1997 calendar. Spokane long has been a bikini bastion for the contest. About five Spokane women actually have appeared in the calendar.
“This is a first,” said a puzzled George Houraney, executive director of the American Dream Calendar. “This is always one of the biggest contests.”
“The weather yesterday scared a lot of girls,” Harth said.
Besides the weather, other theories were thrown out for the paltry numbers. Some women said the contest was poorly advertised. Helean said she thinks something else might have played a role.
“They figure it’s too exploiting, so they’re not doing it,” Helean said.
Instead of a contest, the three women wearing bikinis were treated to two laps on the Spokane raceway in a yellow convertible owned and driven by Renna Anderson’s boyfriend, four hours after the contest had been supposed to start.
The crowd hooted and hollered.
“Holy baby,” said a man in a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy’s uniform. “I got to check them all in.”
Five contestants were needed for the contest to occur. Now, organizers will pick the Spokane regional winner from photographs sent to the American Dream Calendar. All three women who appeared Sunday will have a chance.
More than 10,000 women from around the world vie each year to be selected to appear in the calendar, Harth said. Each winner is pictured next to the custom car or motorcycle of the month.
There are side benefits, organizers say. Each winner can make up to $50,000 in appearance fees the year she’s in the calendar. Contestants can meet celebrities, such as Donald Trump, whose name appears on the cover of this year’s calendar.
“One of my current calendar girls is now in a movie with Steven Seagal - ‘Under Siege II,”’ Harth said. “She’s really on her way.”
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