The Ashcroft Curling Club is back in business after the rink was closed for the 2019/2020 season, and club president Hilda Jones says that things are going very well, with almost double the membership the club had two years ago.
“We have about 35 seniors, and 16 or 17 people coming in the evening. We used to get eight for that, so we’ve doubled the evening curl. It’s fabulous.”
While the rink was closed, the village reviewed what had to be done to make it operational following independent assessments of the building and equipment. Over the last few months essential work was carried out, including the installation of a new ice plant.
“Everything is working really well,” says Jones. “Everyone is feeling comfortable on the ice, and the cleaning procedures are working well.”
There was a ceremonial opening of the rink on Nov. 3, with Ashcroft mayor Barbara Roden and TNRD Area “I” director Steve Rice — who provided funding for the work at the rink — cutting the ribbon and throwing the first rocks of the season. In addition to the village, the curling club, and the TNRD, Northern Development Initiative Trust also provided funds toward the upgrades.
At the opening, Jones thanked Ashcroft mayor and council for moving forward with the decision to replace the chiller unit at the rink and save curling, and the rink, for the community. She also acknowledged the good working partnership the curling club now has with the village. “Thanks to CAO Daniela Dyck, CFO Yogi Bhalla, and Director of Public Works Brian Bennewith. On a personal note, we appreciate the extra effort that Yogi has gone to on our behalf.”
Jones thanked Rice for his past and present support of the curling club. “We appreciate your gas tax money being spent in our community and for this facility, so that our residents can continue to be healthy and active. We look forward to future endeavours with you.”
The curling club executive and volunteers were also recognized for their continued support. “Special acknowledgement to Dwight Hodder, our ice man, and his team of volunteers. We always enjoy curling on our excellent ice.”
Seniors curling takes place every Tuesday at 1 p.m., and there is open curling each Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Jones says there is still plenty of room for any curlers who would like to join, or first-timers who want to see if curling is for them. In the past the club welcomed people who wanted to drop in to check things out, but Jones says that with COVID-19 they’re asking anyone who wants to come by to call first so they can go over procedures.
“Normally there’s no issue with people just showing up, but this year is a bit different, so we’re telling people to call us and then come down one evening and try it. We have grippers, sliders, and brooms, so we can gear you up; just wear clean running shoes.”
Teams are created by pulling names out of a hat, so everyone curls on different teams each week. “We have eight teams and do a rotation, and everyone curls against each other. At the end of the first half we put all the names in hats again and pull different names, so you’re not always curling with the same people. With the seniors, after the curling is finished they go upstairs and have a coffee. It’s a little bit of a social event.”
Because of COVID-19, new rules about sweeping have come down from Curl BC, limiting teams to one sweeper at a time instead of the usual two. Jones says that while having one sweeper is fine, it can be a little difficult for longtime curlers to adjust to.
“You’re sweeping along and suddenly that blue line comes and you stop sweeping so the skip can come out and sweep. If you continue on then the skip needs to move out of the way, so it’s a difficult transition if you’re used to curling a certain way. It’s created a lot of funny moments for a lot of people, but we’re getting it now. It’s just a matter of re-learning a few different things.”
In the past the curling club has brought curling into local schools via the Rocks and Rings program, but Jones says they don’t know if they can do that this year.
“We’re not sure if we can bring any kids down like we normally did. Usually we do Rocks and Rings at the school and then they’d come down after and curl. We don’t need to be there, so maybe we could give [the school portion] to a teacher. It’s something we could talk about doing.”
Also up in the air is the question of what other events the club can host.
“We’re debating bonspiels. We’ve got approval to do a club championship playdown in February for every club in our district, and we’re also in the running to get the U18 provincial playdowns in December, but we have to decide as an executive if that’s feasible because of COVID-19 and if we want to bid on it.
“We did three events in 2018: U18, U21, and seniors playdowns. They’re not huge moneymakers, but it’s nice to see the kids coming out and see how talented they are, so it’s a nice event to host. This year it’s just so different. We won’t be able to serve lunch, and we make a little money on that, get a little bit from Curl BC. There was money to be made in 2018, but we’re not sure about this year.”
Jones adds that the club is fortunate to have a large enough space in the upstairs lounge to accommodate physical distancing. “We have a big enough venue that we could have people watching upstairs. Usually we can make some money on bar and food sales, so we’re not making a lot of money this year. Once [COVID-19] is done we’ll be bidding on every event possible and getting every tournament going, because we still really want these events to come, but there are so many issues involved right now we’re asking ourselves if it is worth it.”
The club is currently renting out the lounge space to one regular user group, and Jones says they’re open to talk to anyone else who would like to use it, either on an ongoing basis or for a one-off rental. The club has also held a very successful raffle, with only 33 of the 1,000 tickets left unsold as of the draw date on Oct. 31. Phyllis Vennard of Cache Creek won first prize, with Clinton’s Jim Rivett taking second prize and Gerry Wong of Ashcroft winning third prize.
In the meantime, the curlers are enjoying having the rink up and running again. The season runs through mid-March, with a two-week break over Christmas, and Jones says everyone is having a good time.
“The new people who have joined up are doing really well and enjoying it, and that’s what you want to promote.”
For more information, visit the Ashcroft Curling Club Facebook page. If you’re interested in learning more, or would like to arrange to go down to the rink and throw a rock or three, call Hilda Jones at (250) 457-7375 or Jim Duncan at (250) 457-1267.