The Elkhorn Curling Club had a abrupt stop to their curling season last March when the ice plant at the rink stopped working just before the final bonspiel of the season.
“We’ve had contractors looking at it, and it looks like the compressor and chiller are needing to be replaced, so it’s basically a new ice plant that we need,” says curling club president Darren Johnson.
Johnson says that there had been problems with the ice plant throughout the season, and a number of years ago, the compressor had to be replaced.
“We have had issues in the past, and we have had to do some other replacing,” he says.
“But, it’s time for a new one. We have no option now—otherwise we won’t have the rink this winter.”
Despite having their last bonspiel of the season cancelled, Elkhorn curlers came out to the rink, and bought supper and made donations to start the fundraising for the new ice plant.
Now, the club is hoping to pick up the fundraising again as the curling season draws nearer, as they have a lot of money to raise—the new ice plant will cost around $100,000, and they are hoping to replace the heaters in the waiting area of the rink too, which they are estimating will be around $10,000, but hopefully less than that.
The first big fundraising push was a barbecue steak supper held last Wednesday at the Elks Hall in Elkhorn. Johnson says that the volunteer curling rink board wanted to get a large fundraiser in before harvest began, since most of them, and many of the board members are farmers.
The supper was $25 a plate, which included steak, salad, garlic bread, potatoes, beans, coleslaw, cake, and drinks. There were also three auctions—a silent auction, live auction, and Chinese auction.
Johnson says the community support in getting items for the auction was excellent, with both businesses and residents donating for the auction. He says that it was harder than previous years, when the oil industry in the region was doing better economically.
“There are lots of oil businesses out here, and some are just cutting back—but local businesses have been really good, they always are,” Johnson says.
Despite the difficulties in the oil industry, Enbridge attended the barbecue supper at the lodge, and at the end of the evening, made a $10,000 donation to the curling club. The supper and auctions and general donations at the fundraiser raised $38,680, so the evening put the curling club $48,680 closer to their goal.
“It was a huge success for our curling club, and with that type of support, it’s going to ensure we can continue operating,” Johnson says.
In addition, the curling club has received a large grant from the federal government for the repairs through the Canada 150 fund, which will pay for a percentage of a community-based upgrade or repair to existing recreational facilities. After the ice plant broke, Johnson says he wanted to find out how the curling club could receive government grants, so he approached Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire.
“Larry was very good at helping us. I had originally just called him as soon as our ice plant went down because I figured if there’s someone in government that can help us, it’s probably Larry . . . He suggested we apply through that program,” Johnson says. Because the program is nation-wide, Johnson says it was exciting to hear they were one of those who qualified for funding. “I am sure many organizations wanted to upgrade this or upgrade that, but for us, it was a matter of the rink opening again—so, it was pretty critical that we find some grant money to help us out.”
A few weeks ago, Maguire visited Elkhorn to announce they will be receiving $48,400 from the Canada 150 fund.
“I was glad to make the announcement here with them,” Maguire says. “I come from a small community, so I know how important these kinds of facilities are to our rural communities and social life within them. You need water, sewer and roads to have a community, but you also need to have the social structures and recreation facilities as well as arts.”
The curling club also received a $6,800 donation from the Elkhorn Foundation to get them even closer to their goal.
Johnson says he is feeling positive that they will be able to raise the remaining funds, and hopes not to borrow from the rink’s operating budget.
“We have some money at rink, but we want to fundraise as much as possible, because we don’t want to go into our next curling season broke, we still want to be able to operate . . . We are prepared to spend some rink money, but not all of it,” he says.
For Johnson, an avid curler, and many others in the community, the curling rink serves as an important part of the community. The school runs an after-school curling program, and this year, it was successful, with 35 kids registered in the program.
“The support we have had from interested kids in the school program with after school curling has been probably the best last year as far as having kids coming,” Johnson says. “Not having the rink would be pretty sad. It would be tough to get it going again if we can’t get it going this year—those kids that have the interest in curling, if they lose out on a year, they just might find another hobby to go and do, which would be unfortunate, because there wasn’t a kid who didn’t’ enjoy themselves in the curling program last year.”
When there’s a bonspiel on, the rink becomes a hub of community activity, and Johnson says that they sell around 100 meals every night a bonspiel is on.
“It’s a great place to come for a meal and to watch some curling,” Johnson says. “We have some of the same ones who come back and come and curl every year. There are not a lot of seniors who come and curl, but the ones we do have, I think they really look forward to it every week, because they come out and curl and have coffee and cake together and visit.”
Johnson says that seeing young curlers interested, and seeing high school curlers go on and be successful—two local rinks made it to divisional playdowns last season—gives him hope that the community will support the rink, and the doors will open this winter with a new ice plant in place.
“We are so fortunate to have such an excellent facility in Elkhorn, it would be a shame to close the doors because we can’t raise enough money to replace the plant,” Johnson says. “But Elkhorn is known for our ability to fundraise, whether it’s a sick kid or a family that had a bad run of luck, the community stands up, and it’s amazing what this town can do.”