ESTEVAN - With just over a month remaining until many of Saskatchewan's top curlers arrive in Estevan, there is still some work to be done, but a lot of tasks have now been completed.
The Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts provincial women's curling championship will run from Jan. 25-29, and then the SaskTel Tankard men's curling tournament will be Feb. 1-5. Both events will happen at Affinity Place.
"We've had some really good meetings here with all our people on our committee, and everything's starting to pull together really nice," said committee chairman Devon Fornwald.
Twelve teams will be entered in each tournament.
The first eight teams for each of the women’s and men’s draws were announced on Tuesday morning.
Women’s teams that qualified through Curling Canada events are those skipped by Penny Barker of Moose Jaw, Nancy Martin of Martensville, Skylar Ackerman from the Sutherland Curling Club in Saskatoon and Amber Holland from Kronau.
Qualifying through the Saskatchewan tour events are squads skipped by Sherry Anderson from the Nutana Curling Club in Saskatoon, Brooklyn Stevenson with the Highland Curling Club in Regina, Catlin Schneider from the Highland and Jessica Mitchell from the Sutherland.
In the men’s competition, qualifying through national events are teams skipped by Colton Flasch from the Nutana, Kelly Knapp from the Highland, Rylan Kleiter from the Nutana and Kody Hartung from the Sutherland.
Qualifying through provincial events are entries skipped by Michael Carss from the Nutana, Steve Laycock out of Swift Current, Daymond Bernath from the Sutherland and Jason Jacobson from the Nutana.
The remaining four women’s and men’s teams will qualify through last-chance events in the new year.
The Scotties was last held in Estevan in 2001, while the Tankard was here in 2018.
Event ticket packages are for sale at the Power Dodge Curling Centre and at the Visitor Information Centre inside the Estevan Leisure Centre. Tickets for individual draws will go on sale closer to the start of the first provincial competition.
Fornwald said the tickets would make great gifts for Christmas.
"It should be a really good event for people to come and watch because there's going to be lots of action," said Fornwald.
He knows of a couple of local teams that will be taking a run at participating in the Tankard, while on the women's side, there are a few women playing in the qualifiers, but he doesn't know if there will be an all-local team entered for playdowns.
Fornwald said they have nearly 170 people who signed up to be volunteers. Registration has closed, and on Thursday they started scheduling people. Almost half of the slotted shifts for volunteers were filled that afternoon.
Sponsorships are also progressing well. A lot of the businesses in the community have stepped forward. Major sponsors are Southern Plains Co-op (volunteers), Municipal Hail (score clock) and Turnbull Excavating (the patch).
Each team will have a local youth curler associated with them through the Future Stars program that has been part of previous curling events in Estevan. Future Stars, which is headed up by Pam Dechief, gives local youths a chance to connect with the teams.
Tickets will be distributed to local schools so that kids can attend the morning draws, which will boost attendance at the event and get the younger generation interested in the sports.
"It's always fun and exciting to hear the kids at these events because they just bring so much energy to the place and really get the teams and the crowd into it. It's really a lot of fun."
The patch, which is the social area for the Scotties and the Tankard, will be at the Wylie-Mitchell building and it is coming together nicely. Some of the entertainment is nearly finalized, and Fornwald believes people will be excited when the bands are announced.
"Our entertainment person [Michael Keating] has done a fantastic job of getting that together," said Fornwald.
Live music will happen Friday and Saturday nights.
People who have passes for that day or for the tournament can visit the patch for free. If not, there will be a cover charge. Food will also be available.
The process of converting Affinity Place's ice to accommodate curling will begin around Jan. 21 or 22. It will take a few days to complete. Fornwald said a lot of people have signed up to help with the ice-making process.
"It's going to be a lot of work, but it's also going to bring a lot of fun to the community and the economic spinoff for the community is going to be quite good, too, for January and February. That's going to be a boost for all of the hotels, restaurants and grocery stores, and for the shopping around town," said Fornwald.
The City of Estevan has also been great to work with, he said, and the venue for the event is really good too.
"It's one of the best in Saskatchewan and possibly in Canada [for curling]. Our past events from when we had the Canada Cup here, a lot of the curlers from across Canada that were here said this was one of the best venues they have ever curled in. They loved the way it was set up, the ice, everything just worked really well for everyone involved."