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Photos: Opening ceremonies a celebration of patience, volunteers and youths

Curlers and dignitaries were part of the event.

ESTEVAN - Opening ceremonies were held Wednesday night prior to the start of curling for the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s provincials in Estevan.

The 12 teams and various dignitaries were led onto the ice by local bagpipes and drums players. Air and army cadets escorted them. Tyler McMillen was the MC and Kyle Whitehead sang O Canada.

The evening began with a touching tribute from ceremonies committee chairwoman Allison Holzer, who made a presentation to Jeff and Brad Pierson. Jeff and Brad’s mother, Melodye, had committed to volunteer at the Scotties, but died unexpectedly in December.

Holzer presented Jeff and Brad with their mother’s volunteer jacket, and paid tribute to Melodye, saying she volunteered for absolutely everything in Estevan and was the city’s biggest cheerleader.

“I’m sure if there was a volunteer hall of fame, she would have been in it,” said Holzer, who noted Melodye had recently been recognized with a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for her service.

Melodye had also been in contact with the committee over how the Piersons’ family business, the Days Inn, could help out.

“I would just like to say ‘thank you’ to Brad and Jeff for sharing your mom with Estevan all these years, and may we all take a little lesson from her life … of helping others, and from this little message she carried around in her wallet which reads: ‘One of the best ways to help the world is to never be a burden to it. Give money, give time, give love, and make sure you give yourself a little to spare, so you’re not the one in need,’” said Holzer.

Inscribed on the jacket, it notes that Melodye was a dedicated volunteer, and in quotation marks, it says “Thanks for the memories. Have a kick-ass time.”

Speakers included Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen, Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig, Ocean Man First Nations Chief Connie Big Eagle, Viterra representative Jamie Young, CurlSask vice-president Helen Fornwald and executive director Kellyn Geiger, Estevan Curling Club president and host committee chair Devon Fornwald, and CurlSask competition liaison Steve Turner.

Helen Fornwald said it was worth the wait to have the event here. Estevan was awarded the 2021 Scotties-Tankard more than three years ago, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they’re happy it is here for 2023.

“We are grateful that we are able to return to some normalcy and see all of these wonderful, excited fans and faces,” said Helen. “We are thrilled to bring back fans. It’s not just the same without the cheering and the buzz of a packed house, back to back, rockin’ the hack.”

She looks forward to seeing some of the best curling shots in Canada.

She then thanked the group that has been part of this journey. More than 190 volunteers are part of this year’s event; their goal was to have 120.

“Thank you, volunteers, for all of your support,” she said to applause.

Each of the organizing committee members was saluted during the ceremonies.

Devon Fornwald lauded all those who have supported this event.

“This venue is one of the best facilities across Canada to showcase a curling event, and we’re proud to be able to showcase it,” said Fornwald.

He thanked the volunteers, because it takes thousands of hours to put the event on. Estevan’s volunteers have been recognized as among the best in the province. Within days of sign-up, close to 90 per cent of the volunteer shifts had been filled.

Curling is one of Saskatchewan’s top sports, and the club is proud of its members.

“To all of the curlers here this week, we wish you the best of luck, and please enjoy all of the hospitality that Estevan and area has to offer,” said Fornwald.  

After the introduction of the teams, the ceremonies concluded with the ceremonial opening shot, courtesy of Team Fradette, a local youth curling squad. McMillen noted this year they have been at various events, including the Canada Winter Games trials in Saskatoon, U18 provincials in Regina and various other CurlSask bonspiels and camps in the province.

They will represent the South East region at the upcoming Saskatchewan Winter Games in Regina.

Members are skip Heidi Fradette, third Kristen Carlson, second Amy Fradette, lead Malina Stead and coach Pauline Ziehl Grimsrud.  

Geiger noted that Amy Fradette designed the winning t-shirt for the Affinity Day of Curling competition. Amy was presented with the t-shirt she designed, signed by all of the competitors, and a special autographed broom.

The Scotties will conclude on Jan. 29.

Then the SaskTel Tankard men’s provincial tournament will run from Feb. 1-5.