‘The Blizzard Bonspiel’

A winter storm couldn’t keep area residents away from the ice at Marshall’s first curling tournament

Photo by Deb Gau A total of 10 amateur curling teams came out in spite of a snowstorm to compete in Marshall’s first-ever bonspiel Saturday at the Red Baron arena.

MARSHALL — Outside the snow was falling fast, and covering everything from sidewalks to vehicles with a thick layer of slush. But that didn’t bother the people gathered at the Red Baron Arena and Expo on Saturday. Inside the arena curling stones rumbled across the ice, as 10 teams faced off in the first-ever Marshall curling tournament, called a bonspiel.

“We’re calling it the Blizzard Bonspiel,” said Justin Holmgren. “We didn’t have a name for it before,” he said, but it seemed fitting.

The competition, organized through Marshall Community Services and the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau, would go on no matter the weather, Holmgren said.

“If we’re here, we’ll stay here,” he said

The first round of competition at the Marshall bonspiel started at 8:30 in the morning, and matches continued all the way through the championship round at 8 p.m.

“The nice part is, for the most part it’s local teams,” said Cam Bailey, recreation coordinator at Marshall Community Services. There wasn’t a lot of travel risk involved for the curlers, and they could wait out the snowstorm while they played.

A total of 40 people took part in the competition, sliding 44-pound stones toward targets marked on the ice. Teams could help control the direction and speed of the stones by sweeping the ice with special brooms.

“It’s really just a bunch of people getting together to have a good time,” Holmgren said of the bonspiel.

But there were moments of excitement, too. One early afternoon game came down to a tiebreaker.

“It’s the first one I’ve seen,” curler Chauncey Welvaert said. To break the tie, the skips, or captains, of each team took turns launching a curling stone at the goal. The stone ending up closest to the “button” at the center of the bullseye would determine the winner.

Welvaert and his teammates Jason Boerboom, Nick Carrow and Duane Carrow were victorious in the tiebreaker, and would go on to win first place in the bonspiel.

Bailey said curling has proven to be a popular activity for Marshall Community Services, with spring and fall curling leagues filling up over the past year.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “Last year around this time, we were having our first Intro To Curling (event).”

“The interest has really been awesome,” Holmgren said.

One of the fun things about curling, organizers said, is that anyone can play. And you didn’t have to be a pro to have fun at Saturday’s competition. Brenda Gaalswyk said she and her teammates started curling in January.

“It’s just so different from our norm,” Gaalswyk said of the sport. “We’re hooked.”

Participants said they were enjoying the Marshall bonspiel. For a first-ever event, things were going smoothly, said curler Tony Hennen. “We’ll be back next year.”

“I hope they keep doing it,” said Zach Haltvick.