Volunteers needed for upcoming provincial curling championship

New Horizons Bonspiel currently underway at Cranbrook Curling Centre

Teams have taken over the Cranbrook Curling Centre as the annual New Horizons Bonspiel is well underway.

Over 24 teams from Cranbrook, Kimberley, Montana, Creston and Jaffray are sweeping away on the ice, vying for cash prizes and bragging rights.

Amidst the action, local organizers of the upcoming B.C. Curling Championship are recruiting volunteers for the provincial event set for Jan 28 – Feb. 2, 2020 at Western Financial Place.

Rick O’Neill, the president of the Cranbrook Curling Club and co-chair of the event along with Christine Knight, says the goal is to have roughly 100 volunteers available for various roles and responsibilities during the tournament. With nearly 70 signed up so far, he said he is hoping to recruit approximately 30 more.

“Those [duties] might involve picking people up at the airport — we have the cars supplied, it might be staging, where you’re going to help assemble something,” said O’Neill. “So we have co-captains on everything. Basically, what we’re looking for is volunteers to help, so set up stages, maybe help out on the ice…

“Other general duties might be opening ceremonies, we may need somebody to help out. Most of the management, top-level ones are filled, it’s just to generally help out during the day.”

Over the course of the week, that could mean anywhere from eight to 30 hours of volunteer time, he added. Some volunteer jobs might involve helping out before the tournament begins, while others will obviously be needed during the event itself.

In addition to volunteers O’Neill is busy reaching out to the local business community to gauge interest in sponsorship.

“Sponsorship packages can go for a couple hundred dollars up to $10,000 depending on how big you want or how much you want,” he said.

For example, O’Neill’s company is supporting a sponsorship so that the school district can bring some students to some of the curling draws.

The tournament will feature 16 men’s teams and eight women’s teams that have won a berth into the B.C. Curling Championship through regional playdowns, while last year’s winners get an automatic entry.

Last year’s men’s winner was a team skipped by Jim Cotter out of Vernon, while Chilliwack’s Sarah Wark skipped her team to the provincial title.

Winners will go on to compete in the national championship — the Tim Hortons Brier for the men and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the women.

Crabrook is no stranger to hosting high profile curling events — the city held the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling as well as the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in 2016. The two vents featured nationally and internationally-renewed curlers such as Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe, Niklas Edin, Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Chelsea Carey, Sherry Middaugh and more.

With the provincial championships, O’Neill said crowds and fans might be drawn to some of the local players that they may know personally from bonspiels around the province.

“These are teams that are laying it out; they want to get to the Briers and the Scotties and what that leads to,” O’Neill said. “So it’s a very large stepping stone for them.

“…You see the teams play and it’s incredible curling, and you know the teams. And in a lot of cases, you may know the people. So I think it’s different, it’s more of a ‘home’ tournament, if you want to call it.

“We’ve got some people from our club, even, trying to make it. I think the buzz is different, but it’s still there.”

If anyone is interested in volunteering, contact O’Neilll at 403-813-0536, contact the Cranbrook Curling Centre at 250-426-4415 or call Christine Knight at 250-910-0065.

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