Dale Ferns has been coming to the Tillsonburg and District Curling Club’s Tobacco Belt Bonspiel long enough to remember the days live tobacco plants were used as table centrepieces.
“A great time,” said the curling veteran, who is making his 13th appearance this weekend at the annual winter celebration. “Can’t miss it.”
The event’s longevity is based on a simple formula: competitive curling and culinary excellence and generosity combining in what convener Les Peter sums up in one word.
“Camaraderie,” he smiled Saturday morning inside the TDCC, adding with a laugh, “There’s a good word, eh?”
“I actually do more than two syllables.”
Sixteen teams are contesting this year’s championship and consolation titles. The field comprises what Peter characterizes as ‘a good mix,’ of club and competitive curlers, hailing from both near and far. There is also a considerable ‘family’ component, with Stefan Patterson throwing second for his dad Ken, Peter and Andrew Burns sharing a sheet of ice, TDCC ice-maker Dale Fanset vicing for his son Travis (who vices for Mark Kean), and Peter’s own son Jon, who brings in a foursome from Tarrytown, New York (the vicinity of The Big Apple) for a little cross-border trophy shopping.
Peter admits to a little nervousness prior to Friday’s opening draws, glad to see all 16 teams on the ice with rocks, and the draw flowing.
“After that, it runs itself,” he said.
It does so, credits Peter, due to a host of great volunteers and with the ongoing support of local and area sponsors.
“There are great sponsors in this community.”
Apart from curling and camaraderie, participants can anticipate a menu featuring a couple of cooked breakfasts, ‘light’ lunches of soup-and-sandwiches or cabbage rolls, the ever-popular Friday night chicken wing fling, and a Saturday night prime rib sitdown.
“Nobody goes away hungry,” said Peter.
“A great time,” said Tillsonburg’s Brent Rohrer, who has been competing at the bonspiel since his days as a Tillsonburg Gemini high school skip.
“Always, always,” agreed Tillsonburg’s Mike Jackson. “And way too much food.”
As of early Saturday afternoon, Gemini alumni Adam Jensen had modified his bonspiel goals to the B final, but regardless of finish, was again enjoying the experience, both on and off the ice.
“It’s pretty competitive, a good group of guys from in and out of town we get to mingle with.”
“It’s awesome,” Rohrer added. “Just something to do, look forward to it every year.”
Which is music to Peter’s ears, both looking back on the event’s history, and forward to another year.
“Come on out, have some fun, we’ll feed you – and the curling is good,” the convener concluded with a smile.