Olympic sport alive in Norfolk
By JULIE WEISBERG – Staff Reporter
NORFOLK — Much of the nation, as well as millions of others all around the world, is caught up in the Olympic spirit with this year’s 2010 Winter Games now underway in Vancouver, Canada.
For the members of the Norfolk Curling Club, however, the tenents of good sportsmanship, fair play and friendly competition are on display throughout most of the winter months.
The club — which has been playing and practicing at a small rink tucked along Golf Drive for more than five decades — boasts an active, full-time membership of more than 50 curlers. The group also has other membership levels available.
Full members can take part in the men’s or women’s league, mixed and open league play, and there is also a local league for junior players. Curlers of all different levels, abilities and experience can be found playing or practicing at the rink almost every day of the week.
“If you’re here and you come out and play, they definitely make you feel welcome,” club member Rebecca Purdy said.
In addition to its own league play, the group regularly hosts bonspiels (the curling term for tournaments) that attract teams from other parts of Connecticut, as well as upstate New York and Massachusetts. And members of the Norfolk club travel throughout the Tri-state area to compete, as well.
“You get to meet people and go to other clubs. It’s a lot of fun,” Purdy said.
Mary Fanette, vice president of the club, said the camaraderie created and found between club members and curlers on other teams is an important component of the sport.
“The success of the game depends upon teamwork,” Fanette, a Norfolk resident, said.
A game is played between two teams of four curlers and usually lasts about two hours. The two sides take turns carefully aiming and sliding round, polished granite stones down the ice toward “the house,” a multi-colored circular target.
The goal for each team is to get their 16 stones closer to the center of the house than those of their opponent.
Two of each team’s four players are the “sweepers” who brush the ice with brooms just ahead of each stone as it glides down toward the target.
Purdy, a Torrington resident now in her second year with the Norfolk club, said the purpose of sweeping is not only to control the stone’s speed by wearing down the “pebbles” of the bumpy ice surface used in curling, but also its direction.
“It will hold the line better,” she said.
The Norfolk Curling Club was founded in 1953 with members playing games outside on Tamarack and Tobey ponds.
In 1956, the original Norfolk curling shed was built. The shed, however, was not a permanent building, but instead a wooden structure with devices that allowed the cold air to flow in at night to freeze the ice surface.
Two years later, the club installed artificial ice-making machinery, allowing members to hold their first bonspiel in December 1958. Eventually, the old wooden curling shed was replaced with an insulated metal building along with enlarged locker and equipment rooms.
New lighting and a concrete floor with new pipes were installed in 1997. A few years later the club installed a new roof as well.
The shed also features a kitchen, bar and lounge area for curlers to socialize and relax with one another while they watch the other players out on the ice.
“The biggest part of curling is the social aspect of it,” Purdy said, adding that curlers, in general, tend to be a very friendly and welcoming group.
“Before and after each game you always shake hands with one another and say, ‘Good game and good curling,’ regardless of the outcome,” Fanette said.
She added that players frequently congratulate their opponents on a well-played stone during a game, even if it means your own team is hurt by the move.
“Because a good shot is just that: a good shot.”
The club will hold an open house this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20 and 21, from 1 to 5 p.m., for those interested in finding out more about the sport. There is a suggested donation of $5 to help cover operating expenses for the weekend.
During the afternoon, participants will be given a brief overview of the game and then have a chance to go out on the ice and try it themselves. Attendees are asked to bring a pair of clean, rubber-soled shoes and gloves.
“And you should also wear loose clothing,” Purdy said.
Fanette said the club held a similar open house event in the fall, and it attracted a lot of interest from area residents.
“We were excited by the response. They were waiting out on the street,” she said, adding that the club picked up eight new players that weekend.
With the Winter Olympics continuing through the rest of the month — including a competitive and talented United States curling team helping to attract additional attention to the sport — Fanette said she expects another good turnout this weekend.
“It will be a lot of fun,” she said.
For more information about the open house or the Norfolk Curling Club, visit norfolkcurlingclub.org or call 860-542-1100.
© Copyright 2010 by TCExtra.com