Bonspiel Recaps: The Rocky Top and the Beachspiel
Traditionally, May through September - give or take a month - is the curling off-season. Most curling clubs that have their own building pack everything up this time of year and close shop until the Fall. However, for those curling clubs who rent hockey ice - that's us, for the time being - our ice is is available all year long! In spite of the weather, that makes the summer the perfect time for arena clubs to host a "bonspiel". (For those new to the sport, "bonspiel" is a fancy word that we curlers made up to mean "curling tournament". Between 25 and 50% of our club membership travels to one or more out-of-town bonspiels each year.)
A couple of weekends ago, those of us wishing to take our curling elsewhere for the weekend had two nearby options: the "Rocky Top Open Bonspiel" (Great Smoky Mountains Curling Club, Knoxville, TN), and the "Lighthouse Beach-spiel" (Coastal Carolina Curling Club, Wilmington, NC). The Triangle Curling Club sent teams to both. How did our teams do?
Now, we could just rattle off a bunch of stats here - Team X won so many games, Team Y made the finals, blah blah blah - but we're going to take this in a different direction. Instead, let's talk about some what happens off the ice at a typical bonspiel. Because even if you're not particularly good at curling (you know who you are), you can still have fun! Actually - and this is a fact - everyone that has ever been to a bonspiel has had a good time, in the history of the world, ever.
At a typical curling tournament, there is going to be some amount of curling. But there may also be...
Off-ice games! Did the curling not go so well? Well, try your hand at cornhole! Many bonspiels feature off-ice side games to help keep us occupied while we're not on the ice. Side games also offer curlers another opportunity to win at something, to help satisfy that competitive streak that some of us have (again, you know who you are).
Physical things you can win! Most clubs accompany their bonspiels with silent auctions or raffles, and a few of them include some big-ticket items worth over $100 in some cases. Many items are donated by the home club, but others are donated by the participating teams and are often emblematic of their respective hometowns. (For example, a traveling Triangle team might "donate" a case of Cheerwine, or other locally produced product that isn't available nationwide.) Winning something in a raffle can be way more exciting than actually winning a game or two, because I mean, what were you going to do with that trophy, anyway?
Costumes! Some bonspiels have a theme and an officially sanctioned costume contest. The rest of the time, people just dress in outlandish clothing for the heck of it, all the way up to the National Championships.
A banquet of some kind! Nothing formal, usually, but the Saturday night dinner is often a little fancier than the other dinners. Nothing you can "win" here, necessarily, but good food is a pretty big draw for a lot of us. I can't speak for everyone, but when I get to go back up for seconds, I count that as a win. (Oh, right - did I mention that food is usually included in the price of admission?)
So, let's ask again: How did we do in Knoxville and Wilmington?
The Beachspiel is a little different than most bonspiels in that it's only a one-day event, as opposed to a weekend-long event. So, there wasn't much need to put a whole lot of effort into putting together any off-ice games. But they did have a raffle drawing at the end, in which Triangle teams, sadly, came away empty handed.
In terms of costumes, a few of us Triangle folk were complimented on our stylish pants, but we didn't stand out quite as much as the team dressed like pirates (sort of beach-themed), and the team dressed like various members of the Justice League (not beach-themed at all, but who cares?).
Out-wardrobed and out-raffled, we drowned our sorrows in copious amounts of fried chicken and cake. And, there was also the fact that on the ice, Triangle teams finished first and second overall for the second consecutive year...but we'd trade it all for at least one win in the raffle, am I right? (Just kidding. Maybe.)
If you're hosting a summer bonspiel in the South, there is no better sign of success then when lots of Canadians come down and curl every year. The Rocky Top bonspiel has been around for a while now and has developed a long list of "regulars" that come from Up North every single year. 13 of the 32 teams entered in this year's Rocky Top were Canadian.
Triangle curlers were very successful in the raffle at the Rocky Top, winning everything from maple syrup - the real stuff, not the fake stuff they sell at your neighborhood grocery store- to various clothing items and gift certificates. Victory! Seriously, though, there were some good items in the Rocky Top raffle, including some autographed by famous curlers such as four-time Canadian and World champion Glenn Howard*. Other off-ice entertainment included a live bluegrass band, cornhole and kubb games, and the Saturday night barbecue. There weren't any superheroes or pirates curling in Knoxville, but for an assortment of interesting team wardrobe choices, check out these three albums, courtesy of Teresa Hoper and Eric Kortebein.
(* - The curling community is pretty tight. If Kevin Bacon has six degrees of separation from every other actor in Hollywood - as he is rumored to have - then in curling, there are really only two or three degress of separation. As in, Curler X once curled in a bonspiel with Curler Y, and Curler Y once curled in a bonspiel with Glenn Howard. So, it's really not that hard to get an autographed something-or-other from another famous curler. In this case, one of the teams at the Rocky Top was from Glenn Howard's hometown of Midland, Ontario.)
The following statement applies to every single bonspiel ever, and will be appended to the end of every bonspiel recap we ever write: In all, we had a great time! The curling was fun, the food was good, the organizers did a great job, everyone had a blast, and we can't wait to come back next year!