Traditions run long in Dawson City. Take the upcoming international curling bonspiel, for example. This is the 118th bonspiel, making it the oldest continuously running event in the Yukon.
Taking place from Feb. 3 to 5 and hosted by the Dawson City Curling Club, the bonspiel is a weekend of fun, social time and the spirit of competition, with teams from all over the Yukon, as well as visiting teams from Northern British Columbia and Northwest Territories, taking part.
The entry fee is $240 per team, and each team is guaranteed three 8-end games, with prizes for the winners in each event
Dawson’s curling history has humble beginnings. The first rink was built in the early 1900’s on a slough in the south end of Dawson City. It consisted of a light wooden frame, covered by canvas, two sheets of ice and a dressing room. By 1909, the club had expanded to a four-sheet facility with a steam-heated spectator room.
Curlers are passionate about their sport. When the international bonspiel was threatened in 2001 and 2002 with lack of a facility to play in, rather than cancel the event and interrupt the tradition, two sheets of curling ice were laid out on the frozen river, with rings painted on with Kool-Aid powder and string for the lines.
Jaimee Gilson, who hails from Australia and is a curler and board member of the Dawson City Curling Club, has been curling every year of the six winters that she’s now been in Dawson.
“Curling is an integral part to surviving winter,” she says. “Curling involves a little bit of thought and social recreation, which is important to me.”
Gilson plays in the Dawson Curling Club league, which consists of 22 teams playing over a period of four days a week. The bonspiel, she says, is even more fun, as it brings together a diverse group of people and allows for a more competitive spirit.
“I love it when other teams come to town (for the bonspiel). It makes me want to win and have bragging rights,” she says with a laugh.
Gilson decided to join the curling club board to support and help the club and its events. She will be organizing the bar for the bonspiel.
Paul Robitaille, also a curler and board member, is equally passionate about the sport.
“As a kid, I used to think curling was boring. But now, I’d rather watch that than hockey,” he says.
Robitaille likes that curling is accessible to everyone. It doesn’t cost much, and anyone can play, he says.
“What I love about curling is that it’s instant satisfaction. One good shot can make up for lots of bad shots and make it worth your while. Even beginners can succeed.”
Robitaille also enjoys the social aspect of curling, as well as the fact that it’s a mixed league.
“You can play with your partner, which makes curling appealing and easier than some other sports.”
Along with playing in the bonspiel, Robitaille is also in charge of sign up. He points out that the bonspiel is a mixed tournament, which means that there should be at least one member of the opposite sex on a team, and encourages teams of four from near and far to come to Dawson City to enjoy great prizes and a homemade banquet dinner.
Robitaille is also tasked with making sure everyone at the bonspiel is having a good time. Judging by his passion for curling and his excitement for the upcoming event, this shouldn’t be a problem.
“This is the one weekend I look forward to all year!” he says.
For more information on the 118th International Bonspiel, or the Dawson City Curling Club in general, please contact Paul Robitaille by phone at 993-5575 or by email at [email protected]