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Church bonspiel hits 50th anniversary

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Team numbers may be dwindling and there's no promise there will be another one next year.

But 50 years after the first edition, the Fort Frances Church Bonspiel will hit the ice yet again this Saturday (Feb. 18) from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Fort Frances Curling Club.

“It's a bit of a local curling milestone, for sure,” said bonspiel co-organizer Bill Gushulak, who has taken part in the event for roughly the past two decades.

“Lots of bonspiels have come and gone and this is a small one, but an important one for the community,” he noted.

Gushulak recalled how the bonspiel ran when the old curling club was located across from the Civic Centre.

“They would cook the meal for the event at a local church and on your break from curling, you would go to the church and eat and then go back and finish curling,” he said.

While the event has struggled to get a 12-team field in recent years, Gushulak said it's still something enjoyed by all who participate.

“We've maintained it as being a fun day and with all the fellowship among the local churches, it's really good,” he enthused.

The original bonspiel took place in 1967—a co-creation of R.V. “Rusty” Green of Green Funeral Home and Rev. Harvey Mose from Knox United Church.

Winners each year receive the R.V. Green Trophy while the runners-up receive the Ray Loewen Trophy.

“Green Funeral Home has continued to donate the trophies and the plaques for the event, which we really appreciate,” said Gushulak, noting the annual updates to the awards are done by Fort Frances General Supply.

It has been an annual event without fail—save for 1992 when the old club already had been condemned and the new one still was under construction.

“It's a very relaxed atmosphere and you don't have to be an accomplished curler to be in it,” said Gushulak, who explained each team will play three six-end games featuring a specialized scoring system that allows for more parity amongst the teams.

“It's really about people enjoying the game and the gathering," he stressed. "It's a highlight of the winter season.”

Gushulak conceded there's no way to predict the bonspiel's future.

“I'm not sure after this 50th anniversary if it will continue on," he admitted. "It depends on the response going forward.”

With just seven teams signed up so far for this year's bonspiel, Gushulak said there's still room for any team wanting to join.

He added individual players also were welcome to sign up, with the prospects very good of putting them together with other unattached players to form one or more teams.

“We're hoping for an even number as that makes it easier to do the draw,” Gushulak said.

The registration cost is $100 per team and the bonspiel is open to any male-female combination of four players, with all ages welcome.

Lunch is included in the fee, along with the three games for each team.

Awards will be given to the first- and second-place teams.

Anyone interested in signing up, or who wants more information, can contact Gushulak at 274-3891 or 275-9252, or via e-mail at weg2of6@vianet.ca

You also can contact Peg Keffer at 274-1969 or kefferpeg4@gmail.com, or call the curling club at 274-6667.

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