Portions of this article By CRYSTAL DEY posted with permission of the Bemidji Pioneer
BEMIDJI — Smooth Scottish stones sailed across the iced surface of Lake Bemidji for the first time in more than 80 years this weekend.
Curling has returned to Bemidji’s winter festival.
Bemidji is, after all, Curling Capitol USA; it only makes sense that an outdoor curling Bonspiel would highlight Winterfest on Lake Bemidji.
“We needed a winter event like Dragon Boats,” said Terry Matson of the Bemidji Curling Club.
Other events as part of Winterfest were a pond hockey tournament, a Brrmidji Plunge into Lake Bemidji and a cornhole tournament.
As of Thursday, Matson didn’t know how the ice was going to turn out for the Bonspiel that began on Friday night. To accommodate the competition, six sheets were needed.
“It’s beyond my dreams,” Matson said Saturday. “The ice turned out really good.” He said setting up the outdoor arena will take half as long next year.
Matson credited Josh Bahr with mastering the smooth ice. Bahr was playing against Jamie Haskell on Saturday afternoon. Haskell competed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. Former Olympian Joe Polo was also roaming the ice on Lake Bemidji during Winterfest.
“They’re having a blast out there,” Matson said.
Three draws were played Friday with another 10 on Saturday. The championship team takes home a custom Paul Bunyan curling trophy.
Matson said there were 26 teams competing this year. Next year, he anticipates 48.
“And they better register early,” Matson added. “This year, the weather hindered sign-ups early on. I’d have had more teams if I had a normal winter.”
Entry fees collected by teams participating in the Winterfest Bonspiel are contributed to the Bemidji Curling Club’s junior curlers for equipment and travel expenses. Matson said Bemidji’s junior curling team is the largest in Minnesota.
“Interest in the curling club picks up during Olympic years,” Matson said. So does participation in his community education curling course offered in October.
“If you understand the game, it’s a hoot to watch,” Matson said.
The last time curling was performed on Lake Bemidji is believed to have been in 1932 when the Hibbing Curling Club introduced it as a demonstration sport during Bemidji’s winter carnival.
A special thanks to Dale Goodyear and team for this one-of-a-kind trophy. Kathy Winger carved Paul Bunyan out of a chunk of a pine tree that had blown down in Debs during the July 2012 windstorm, Gardell Emery, a local lathe artist, turned out the wooden curling rock, and cabinet maker Gary Bergsven built the trophy’s wooden base. Goodyear ordered a piece of Plexiglass from Glass Doctor then cut it and polished the edges with sandpaper and steel wool according to Bemidji art teacher Gregg Wilimek’s design. Josh Gerard painted the statue, and Brittany Thompson of Ken K Thompson Jewelry engraved the plaques for the winners’ names. Goodyear and his wife, Lois, assembled the parts.
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