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Bonspiels are the thing as curling season gets into high gear

The curling season is now well underway, with an array of events taking place at the Elmira & District Curling Club and points beyond.

Most recently, the local club hoste the fourth annual “Big Cheese” Masters Bonspiel, which saw the winning team walk away with a big block of premium cheese catered by Kitchen Kuttings.

While things can get competitive occasionally depending on the league, longtime club members say that the atmosphere is generally cooperative.

“It’s a drinking sport that we threw curling into,” said club member Dan Donaldson with a laugh. “It’s a great social activity. This is a chess game on ice – you’re thinking of ‘if they do this, I’m doing to do this to counteract the move.’ So it’s not as simple as it appears.”

“We’re all human, we do get competitive while we’re playing,” added club president Gerry Hahn. “There are different leagues – we have social leagues, competitive leagues, ladies leagues, men’s, combined and daytime leagues.”

Many upcoming bonspiels have a similar, fun theme early in the new year, including a Chocolate Lovers – Ladies, the Men’s ‘Striploin Classic’, and the Rib and Schnitz Mixed Bonspiel. There are unique prizes handed out at each one; there are varying levels of competitiveness and skill level present within these events.

Eleven Elmira teams entered a 64-team competition, the 2019 Home Hardware Bonspiel, that took place last week in Fergus. Dan Dow of Elora claimed the trophy, while the cup went to Darren Jones of Arthur.

One of the particularly popular offerings is Curling 101, designed for those who have never tried their hand at curling before. Over six weeks, professionals teach players new to the sport, with all equipment provided. Currently, across all leagues, some 300 curlers are enrolled, in large part, due to the Curling 101.

“Enrolment has greatly improved over the last few years,” noted Donaldson. “We were at one point down to close to 200 then we started Curling 101 for people who would like to try it but don’t know anything about it.”

“It’s really brought our membership up. We’ve got a whole lot of enthusiastic new players; they’re actually joining leagues with some abilities then, rather than coming out cold and trying to learn as you go. It’s really worked well – it’s a real success story,” added Hahn.

The Elmira Lawn Bowling Club tried a similar strategy, introducing a Lawn Bowling 101 program back in May, which also saw their enrolment increase.

The sports parallel one another in many ways. Players slide heavy, polished granite stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area, which is segmented into four concentric circles. Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding the stones, called rocks, towards the circular target on the ice. The team with the most points wins.

“It’s like shuffleboard on ice,” said Donaldson.

The curling season is half a year, starting October 1 and wrapping up on April 1. For more information, visit The Elmira Curling Club website.

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