First Ever Bonspiel is attracting 32 curling teams to Brainerd this weekend and an upcoming open house will give newcomers a chance to try the sport.
The Brainerd Lakes Curling Association (BLCA) is hosting its first tournament or bonspiel Friday through Sunday. Teams are expected from Two Harbors, Mankato, Willmar, Hibbing, Alexandria, Bemidji, Duluth, Grand Marais, St. Paul, along with clubs in Itasca and Cook counties, Wisconsin and Canada.
Ginny McDonald, BLCA secretary, said spectators are welcome to view the bonspiel from the heated seating area. An addition to the club, which came from a dedicated donation for cameras and viewing screens, gives spectators a chance to see the action up close even from a distance. Cameras hanging over the scoring targets at the end of the ice sheets — known as houses in curling vernacular — provide overhead images of the rocks for those in the viewing area.
“It makes the viewing much better from the nice, warm viewing ... social area,” McDonald said.
She said they are expecting an active weekend in the Fran Holden Arena at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds in south Brainerd. A curling headliner, Paul Pustovar of Hibbing, is expected to take part in the Brainerd bonspiel. Pustovar was twice U. S. Curling Association and U.S. Olympic Committee Male Curling Athlete of the Year and a repeated U.S. national champion. He coached the Minnesota Junior Men’s State Champions into the junior nationals and a Minnesota women’s team to two national championship competitions.
Pustovar is a certified instructor and coach. He created and taught a curling class at Hibbing Community College, where he was a biology instructor.
“So there will be some real exciting curling going on,” McDonald said of the experienced curlers expected. Nine local teams are participating. The others are drawn from outside the lakes area. Plans call for three games for each curling team for the bonspiel.
Participants and spectators will have a choice of food and beverages. On Friday, Giovanni’s Pizza will be available and Saturday lunch may be purchased at the club from Mickey’s. Cragun’s is catering a dinner Saturday and the Eagles Club is providing a cash bar.
In December, the BLCA is hosting an open house. Three-time curling olympian and World Champion Debbie McCormick plans to attend. McCormick works with Goldline Mobile Curling Supplies and is expected to arrive with a mobile pro shop with clothing, equipment and novelty items.
“She’ll be happy to talk to people about curling,” McDonald said.
The open house is 6-8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the curling arena. Those interested in the sport will be able to talk to league players and try curling with help from an experienced instructor. People will be able to learn how to work the stone and sweep the ice. Equipment will be provided, including items to help people who can’t bend to the ice because of bad knees.
“Just come in and see what it’s all about,” she said. “All they’ll need is clean shoes.”
Open house participants are advised to wear warm, loose fitting clothing and clean rubber-soled shoes like tennis shoes. Curling is available for both genders, children to adult and across abilities from beginner to experienced. The curling club has men’s, women’s, senior and mixed leagues. The curling center has four sheets of dedicated curling ice. During the Dec. 6 open house, specators will be able to watch league play in action.
“It coincides with women’s league so peole can actually see real live teams playing,” McDonald said.
Curling olympian McCormick plans to visit the curling club from 4:30-9 p.m. Dec. 6 and be there from 4:30 to 11 p.m. on Dec. 7 during league play. McCormick is donating a signed broom for the curling club’s fundraising silent auction.
The next curling season starts Jan. 8. The Brainerd Lakes Curling Association expects to host another bonspiel during the first days of February.
McDonald said: “Hopefully, we’ll have a couple (bonspiels) a year.”