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WINTERFEST: Curling comes back to Lake Bemidji

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BEMIDJI — Organizers are reaching into the past for this year’s first-ever Winterfest on Lake Bemidji on Friday and Saturday.

The Bemidji Curling Club and Junior Curling Committee will bring back the Winterfest Bonspiel to its original local venue — Lake Bemidji. The last time a curling bonspiel was held on Lake Bemidji ice was 1932.

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“We’ve been scouring events, other places that do this,” said Terry Matson, Bemidji Junior Curling Committee director, of outdoor curling. “I know our icemaker, Josh Bahr, is nervous.”

“A little,” Bahr said. “I’ve never done this before, but I think it will be all right.”

Since he was 10-years-old, Bahr has helped his uncle, Bob Fenson, make ice at the Bemidji Curling Club.

Creating the six lanes on natural lake ice will be a different proposition, he said.

The Bemidji Fire Department will supply 2,500 gallons of water to smooth the ice and fill in cracks and other deformities.

He will also pebble the ice to make a more slippery surface for the rocks to slide on.

Completely flat ice would cause too much friction for curlers to control the throw of their rocks, he said.

The pebbling spray equipment raises another question, Bahr said.

“I don’t know if (the water) is going to freeze up in the nozzle or not,” he said last week. “It’s a little bit of a mystery.”

Bahr said he will set up the hacks, hog lines, tee lines and back lines as the last steps in the process.

At the curling club, these markers are painted on the surface under the ice.

But paint on the lake would absorb heat from the sun and cause the ice to bubble, he said.

“It will be done with string and ribbon,” Bahr said of the lake ice markings.

Matson said he and fellow Winterfest Bonspiel organizer Rob Aitken wouldn’t think of borrowing rocks from the Bemidji Curling Club for fear of damaging the valuable, finely tuned equipment.

Instead, they have arranged to rent used rocks and brooms from Dakota Curling Supplies of Langdon, N.D.

And as for curling shoes, he recommended competitors just wear their snow boots. All equipment will be provided.

The games will be limited to four ends, he said, so each event will take about one hour. There will also be a heated tent nearby.

With curling being a sport all ages can enjoy, there will be open curling between events.

“This is a chance for everybody to come out and give it a try,” Matson said. “Throw rocks for an hour.”

For more information, contact Matson at 444-1579 or at Terrym@securitybankusa.com.

The cost for a team of four is $200. Open curling costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. Proceeds go to Bemidji Junior Curling.

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