This weekend marks a milestone for the Creston Curling Centre: the 50th anniversary of the Valentine Bonspiel.
About three dozen teams, including one from as far away as Grande Prairie, Alta., are expected to compete in this year’s event, which has been a success since it started in 1963.
“We’re really good hosts,” said Bev Pommier, who started curling in Grade 7. “We do a lot of extra things so they have a lot of fun here.”
One popular part of the women’s bonspiel is the costume party and contest on Friday night, which has been going since the early 1980s.
“There would be the odd team of ladies that would dress up,” Pommier said. “So we decided to do that.”
Each year’s contest has a different theme — past themes have included “Down on the Farm”, “Under the Big Top” and “Letters of the Alphabet” — and this year’s is “It Happened in ’63”, which, as always, the organizers expect to encourage creativity.
“That leaves it wide open,” Pommier said.
Friday night will also feature a welcome reception sponsored by Shelley Voight and Creston Valley Realty, as well as live music by Bred for Noise.
On Saturday afternoon, curlers can enjoy karaoke, as well as an alumni tea from 1-3 p.m. Those will be followed by a draw to button (sponsored by Dr. Rob Armstrong) at 5:30, hosted by Donna Salvador, who won the B event in 1963.
That first year, 22 teams from the east and west Kootenays took part, and that number climbed as high as 54 in the 1980s, which kept curlers on the ice nearly around the clock.
“When you have 54 teams, you curl every two hours,” Pommier said.
When the finalists head out to play on Sunday afternoon, they will enjoy a bit of pomp as they are led onto the ice by piper Anthony Biccum.
“It’s such a nice experience,” said Joy.
The bonspiel has always remained popular, and has run consecutively since its inception, at least when ice has been available — the curling centre’s records skip from the sixth in 1968 to 10th in 1973, indicating that one was likely missed after the civic centre burned down in November 1968.
Pommier has been competing in the Valentine Bonspiel since the 1970s, and has won the A, B, C and D events. When she started curling, she said it took about three years to learn the sport well, and then she played on a competitive team.
“We got to travel around and go to competitions,” she said. “I got to be a real rink rat.”
Marlys Joy has been curling for about 20 years — her children and grandchildren also play — and has won the bonspiel’s D event and placed second in the A event. But the chance to win a trophy is a small part of the sport’s appeal.
“Besides being competitive, it’s very social,” she said. “If you’re new to the valley, you join the curling club to meet people. …
“All it is is fun. You just get out there and don’t worry about a thing.”