CURLING ROCKS ON IN RURAL ALBERTA
Always a big winter pastime for Canadians, curling it is especially important to farmers and rural communities on the Prairies. The above photo of an outdoor curling event was snapped in Peace River in 1921.
Formed in 2018 by a handful of regional curling groups, Curling Alberta is the province’s central body for the sport and serves a membership of 186 community curling centres. Rural clubs typically operate in line with the farming calendar. This year, the Curling Alberta Provincial Championship will be held ahead of spring seeding at the Lethbridge Curling Club, March 28 through April 2.
Curling Alberta works hard to recruit and develop curlers of all skill levels as well as boost the sport’s fanbase. It is especially focused on investment in youth programs and welcoming the participation of new Canadians. The organization also assists club leaders to build their administrative skills and resources and develop sustainable revenue sources.
“Curling clubs in rural communities are social hubs,” said Jill Richard, executive director of Curling Alberta. “They promote physical and mental well-being.” She said the sport remains strong in rural Alberta and is heavily reliant on the hard work of volunteers. While COVID kept players and fans away from the rinks, participation has rebounded nicely.
To encourage participation in rural areas, Curling Alberta operates programs such as its Ready to Rock initiative. Open to all kids ages eight to 15, it aims to increase diversity and inclusion by encouraging the participation of BIPOC youth and those from financially marginalized families. Ready to Rock has proven to be a success. In 2021, the first year of the program, 37 clubs and 700 children participated. This year, the program has the capacity to accommodate 4,800.
Farmers and those in rural communities can get involved in curling by contacting their local curling club. Most clubs offer programs designed for participants with little to no experience with several intakes throughout the season.
For more information visit curlingalberta.ca.