Yukon town celebrates 35 years of curling bonspiels on frozen lake
'You don't have to be a curler to bonspiel in the outdoors,' says Watson Lake organizer
The community of Watson Lake, Yukon, kicks off a big weekend of curling today.
Volunteers have been working long hours flooding and shovelling to create two sheets on Wye Lake.
Jean MacLean is principal at Watson Lake Secondary School and part of the organizing board. She says this is the bonspiel's 35th year, though it hasn't always been held on the same lake.
"It's a tradition. It's the longest-running open-air bonspiel in North America to our knowledge. It's been continuous for 35 years," she says.
MacLean says it's taken three weeks to make the rink. Volunteers added boards to outline the sheets then flooded and cleared the lake surface.
Recent warm weather hasn't helped.
'There's always challenges. The ice we made has all melted over the last two days so there's going to be some midnight ice-making to get it up to par," she says.
Twenty-eight teams of four players have registered this year. Most are from Watson Lake though a few people will drive the five hours from Whitehorse.
Every team gets at least four games, which means some teams will be curling after midnight Saturday.
MacLean says there are trophies and prizes but the bonspiel is friendly competition.
Some people dress up in costumes and the first team eliminated gets a trophy in the shape of a skunk.
"You don't have to be a curler to bonspiel in the outdoors," she says.
Some years the ice has warped to the point that straight shooting was near impossible.
"It's just a fun community event. It's not [just] for curlers," she says.
The first rock will be thrown today at 5 p.m.
The weekend will wrap up with a banquet on Sunday evening at the rec centre in Watson Lake.