Wiar­ton Bongspiel

Wiar­ton curlers cel­e­brate le­gal­iza­tion at in­au­gu­ral ‘Bongspiel’

Wiarton Echo - - FRONT PAGE - ZOE KESSLER Edi­tor

Lo­cal curlers are poised to host what might pos­si­bly be the first “Bongspiel” in Canada on Jan. 26, 2019, at the Wiar­ton & District Curl­ing Club in South Bruce Penin­sula.

The all-day event sold out within 24 hours, with 16 four-per­son teams sign­ing up at $200 per team.

“There’s a real ap­peal with it. It’s very Cana­dian, the idea of com­bin­ing curl­ing and cannabis. Af­ter all, we are le­gal and we are lead­ing the le­gal pack,” Grant Ni­chol­son, Bongspiel con­venor, said in an in­ter­view.

Ni­chol­son, who has curled for about 39 years, hopes to meet new friends and bring peo­ple to­gether who or­di­nar­ily wouldn’t spend time with one another at the club’s first Bongspiel.

“I think that we are also try­ing to bring a lit­tle bit of ad­mi­ra­tion to some­thing that’s al­ways been se­cre­tive,” he said.

Bongspiel will likely be more mel­low than most club events, Ni­chol­son said.

“I think it will be very calm. The rea­son that I like com­bin­ing the two ac­tiv­i­ties is be­cause I do get a real sin­gu­lar fo­cus and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that. There’s noth­ing more re­lax­ing than know­ing you’re do­ing the right thing at the right time,” he said.

Ni­chol­son and co-con­venor Ted Rat­cliffe, of Wiar­ton, pre­sented their idea at a meet­ing of the club’s ex­ec­u­tives on Oct. 23.

“There’s still stigma. I don’t think a lot of the ex­ec­u­tives un­der­stood. They’re not fa­mil­iar with mar­i­juana and con­sum­ing it recre­ation­ally,” Rat­cliffe said in an in­ter­view.

“They were shocked when I said I think it’ll be a more low-key and mel­low bon­spiel.”

The event will be a chance for like-minded peo­ple to hang out, lis­ten to mu­sic and curl, he said, adding a DJ will pro­vide mu­sic through­out the day and a live band will play in the evening.

Meals will be pre­pared at the club’s kitchen by club vol­un­teers.

“There’s been an ap­petite for it but un­til now, it’s been kept quiet, un­der wraps and over­shad­owed by the drink­ing as­pects of curl­ing. So now we can come out in pub­lic,” Rat­cliffe said.

Rat­cliffe said he’ll give gen­eral in­struc­tions at the begin­ning of the event so ev­ery­thing goes smoothly, in­clud­ing a re­minder for par­tic­i­pants to have a des­ig­nated driver if nec­es­sary.

“We’ve no­ti­fied all the cab com­pa­nies that this is go­ing on and are hav­ing them plan ac­cord­ingly,” he said.

“They’re go­ing to break some ground I think,” Gord Iron­mon­ger, Pres­i­dent of the Wiar­ton & District Curl­ing Club said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“We all know there is quite a pop­u­la­tion out there that sup­ports this ac­tiv­ity,” he said, adding, “Our fed­eral gov­ern­ment has made it more so­cially ac­cept­able.”

Iron­mon­ger said the club ex­ec­u­tives had looked at “what was le­gally our re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

“We just es­tab­lished it would be no dif­fer­ent than any other bon­spiel.”

No con­sum­ables will be al­lowed in­side the build­ing and any per­sonal cannabis brought by par­tic­i­pants would be smoked out­side in ac­cor­dance to the new leg­is­la­tion, Iron­mon­ger said.

Club ex­ec­u­tives con­sid­ered a num­ber of fac­tors and “dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios” be­fore giv­ing the event the green flag.

“Over the course of that 20 min­utes no­body could come up with a de­fin­i­tive rea­son why not,” he said.

The event might be an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote the sport of curl­ing to a dif­fer­ent de­mo­graphic of peo­ple, Iron­mon­ger said.

“We kind of fig­ure if it goes suc­cess­fully, next year you’ll see other clubs do it. So why not be the first?” Iron­mon­ger said, adding he’s both “ner­vous” and “hope­ful” about the in­au­gu­ral event.

“Up here we’ve a lot more el­derly peo­ple that may frown on this ac­tiv­ity. The younger gen­er­a­tion is maybe a lit­tle more lib­eral with their life­styles than the el­derly,” he said.

“I’m sure the ex­ec­u­tive, go­ing for­ward, will be asked ques­tions ev­ery day un­til the event is done. We’re all on the same page.

“We may end up with a bunch of pro­test­ers. We may end up with oth­ers that are all for it. It makes me a lit­tle ner­vous. I just hope ev­ery­thing goes smooth and there’s no hic­cups. You have to start some­where.”

Iron­mon­ger said he’s re­as­sured that the par­tic­i­pants will be mostly the con­venors’ friends and peo­ple known by them.

“Most of them are lo­cal. [Rat­cliffe] is still get­ting calls from all over On­tario from peo­ple that want to come and play . ... It could make it a lit­tle more awk­ward than deal­ing with peo­ple you know.”

One of Iron­mon­ger’s con­cerns is “peo­ple will mis­be­have.”

“To be hon­est with you, I’ve never been around a bunch of peo­ple smok­ing up,” he said.

He’s also wor­ried about falls on the ice - although he said it would be no dif­fer­ent than if some­one fell on the ice af­ter drink­ing too much al­co­hol - which is why he will be there to help su­per­vise.

“I will need to rely on a few mem­bers within the club that have been down that road. There will be a lot of club in­volve­ment,” he said.

“As long as it’s good, safe fun that’s the ul­ti­mate.”

Although the event has been ap­proved, the ex­ec­u­tive will meet with the con­venors to hash out the de­tails, Iron­mon­ger said.

When asked about a planned com­pe­ti­tion for par­tic­i­pants to com­pare and score each oth­ers’ homegrown mar­i­juana, with prizes be­ing given for var­i­ous strains based on “ap­pear­ance, smell, taste and ef­fect,” as de­scribed on the event’s Face­book page - Iron­mon­ger said he knew noth­ing about that.

“That won’t be hap­pen­ing,” he said. “They were given only a date and a theme.”

“That’s why it was ap­proved,” Iron­mon­ger said.


Ted Rat­cliffe (left), of Wiar­ton, and Grant Ni­chol­son, of Owen Sound, are the con­venors of “Bongspiel.” The sold out event - which com­bines curl­ing and cannabis - will be held at the Wiar­ton & District Curl­ing Club in South Bruce Penin­sula, Jan. 26, 2019.

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