Curling is alive and well in the Highlands, with all three clubs across Haliburton County reporting substantial increases in membership for the new winter season.
With back-to-back seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs in Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce are operating without restrictions this year, though are maintaining enhanced cleaning practices and encourage members to wear a mask when not on the ice.
John Sexton, a member of the Minden executive, said it’s been an emotional couple of months as he’s seen many long-time players return to the rink.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be back. Curling is such a social sport. We missed out on so much the past couple of years. It’s wonderful to have curling as we know it, and as we love it, running again,” he said. With the first of two 10-week sessions underway, the Minden club has 190 curlers registered for the year.
That’s up from 120 last season. Sexton said there are nine active leagues, including competitive options for men and women, co-ed recreational and a new ‘BS’ league, which is run in partnership with Boshkung Social. “That’s more about getting out, having fun and meeting new people. We have a lot of younger players involved in that.” Sexton said the Minden club has welcomed around 40 new, first-time curlers this season.
It’s a similar story in Haliburton. Of the 235 registered curlers playing across 10 leagues, there are 43 new members.
Club president Wanda Ruddy said this put the club’s membership back to pre-pandemic levels, after having around 120 players last year. Haliburton runs three, eight-week sessions in order to accommodate snowbirds who travel south before the holidays. The first session wrapped up Nov. 30, with session two running until Jan. 31.
The final session will run in February and March.
Planning is underway for a series of big, session-ending bonspiels – the first in Haliburton since 2019. The Skyline men’s competitive bonspiel is happening Jan. 21, with a mixed competitive competition taking place the first weekend in February.
That tournament will feature 24 out-of-town teams, Ruddy said. The ladies’ Highland Lassie bonspiel is scheduled for March. Operations at the Wilberforce Curling Club are better than ever according to president, Darrell McQuigge.
The organization has seen a 70 per cent increase in its membership from pre-pandemic levels, now boasting 71 active members. “That’s brought lots of new energy and fresh volunteers to help us keep things going. Now we’re looking at how we can make things even better,” McQuigge said. The club held an in-house glow in the dark bonspiel Nov. 26 and has several other events, some involving out-of-town teams, lined up for early next year. Also returning this year are complementary ‘Learn to Curl’ sessions, where seasoned curlers will spend a day teaching novices about the ins and outs of the game.
A similar initiative is also offered in Haliburton.
“We have free sample curling on Wednesdays where people can come out to see what we’re about… a bunch of our members have been trained to be instructors through the Ontario Curling Association,” McQuigge said.
“It’s a great sport to get into – it doesn’t cost a lot to play, and the social engagement is huge. There’s always plenty of smiling faces on curling night.” To learn more about each club, visit haliburtoncurlingclub. com, mindencurlingclub.com, or wilberforcecurling.com.