When you walk into the Tartan curling club on a Friday night, you might expect to see middle-aged curlers wearing track suits. However, a monthly event called The Blender is attracting an unlikely new crowd to the sport. On that night, the ice is full of 20-somethings in tight jeans and black boots.
Many are more comfortable playing rock music than throwing rocks, but all of them have shown up to learn a new sport, drink a few beer, and hear some good music. Ten bucks gets you a drink, two hours of curling and a local band. No experience is needed, no special equipment required, and you don't need to find a team to play.
Tartan lounge new hip hotspot in Regina
Upstairs, in the Tartan lounge, curlers fresh off the ice sit around drinking beer and listening to the band tune its instruments. On this particular night, The Gates of Dawn are playing. It's a cover band that plays vintage rock n' roll tunes. Its claim to fame is that it shares two members with the Regina indie-rock band Rah Rah.
Piper Burns is on the drums, and started working at the curling club in Grade 11. Now, four years later, he's organizing The Blender. He says it's all about attracting new people to the curling club.
"The idea is that it's a pretty wicked bar and no one's going to it. Well, that's not true, curlers are going to it, but curlers are old."
'It's the classic thing. It's like records, you take an old thing and you make an old thing cool again.' - Piper Burns
Burns says the event attracts a very specific crowd, "It's hippies, all different ages, punk rockers, there's people who used to curl, and you can tell when they used to curl. But for the most part, it's people you'd see out on a Friday night at the bar, seeing a show."
"It's an old thing, and it's kinda like it's cool, it's the classic thing. It's like records, it's an old thing and you make an old thing cool again."
Burns says the event appeals to people who may be turned-off by traditional curling leagues.
"We are just trying to make it really simple for someone who wants to throw some rocks on a Friday night and have some beers. Because to play regularly, it's kind of intimidating, because you have to pay hundreds of dollars, and you have to be on a team, and you are getting your ass kicked every week. Whereas, here, you are playing against people who are in the same boat and you're just kind of having a laugh."
New life for old sport
Many of the young people had never tried curling until they started coming to the monthly Blender events. That makes Manager Alan Bratt a happy man. Bratt has spent the better part of 37 years hanging out at the club.
He's seen a lot of changes over the years, but never anything like this.
"I'm fascinated by it. This is a different crowd. Curling's been in a kind of decline. The regular league curling that's been dominant in this province for 100 years seems to be not as successful."
'I'm fascinated by it. This is a different crowd.' - Alan Bratt, Tartan Manager
He was looking for a way to attract new people to the sport. Bratt had heard in Ontario some clubs had success just having people show up at the rink and mixing them up into different teams.
"I thought we'd try it. We had a few sheets open on a Friday night, so turn 'em loose. It's been fantastic! Some people have shown up for this then have come out to the learn to curl program."
What do the longtime club members think of their curling lounge becoming the new hip hangout for people in Regina's music scene?
"Most people understand that if we don't do something, we're not going to be here. We are in a great location, because we have this whole area with young people and if we can bring them in, it's a lifeblood. It's new energy, it's new interest. If anyone has a complaint, that's too bad."
The next Blender event is scheduled for February 27.