Curling club’s bid wins out

Lucas Punkari

Now that the Fort Frances Curling Club knows its bid was one of the 10 winners in this year’s “Kraft Celebration Tour,” organizers are getting things set up for what will be taking place here Sunday, Aug. 25 when TSN comes to town.
“It really hasn’t sunk in for me that we have won yet as I have been doing a lot of running around today [Tuesday] for TSN,” noted club member Patrick Briere, who submitted the winning bid along with club president Ron Silver.
“We will be meeting with TSN on Wednesday [today] to get things set up with them, especially with the location for the event,” he said.
“And they will also be doing some filming in town for a feature on the ’52 Canadians Allan Cup team,” Briere added.
The curling club’s bid was announced as the final winner of this year’s “Kraft Celebration Tour” during TSN’s SportsCentre late Monday afternoon, defeating a bid from Dryden’s track-and-field facility in a 24-hour online voting showdown last week.
As a result, the club will receive $25,000 that will go towards offsetting the costs of its new geothermal heating unit.
As well, TSN will do a live taping of SportsCentre here on Aug. 25 that will air at 5 p.m. (CDT) while Kraft will stage a community barbecue.
“The lead-up to [Monday’s] announcement was like nothing that I have ever experienced before,” Briere admitted.
“The day just dragged on and on, and it felt really long and painful by the time we went to Boston Pizza to watch SportsCentre,” he added.
“When it was finally announced that we had won, everyone was very excited in there.”
During the 24-hour online voting process, which ran from 11 a.m. on Friday until 10:59 a.m. on Saturday, the curling club’s bid amassed 518,082 votes, which easily topped Dryden’s 272,292 votes.
The two Northwestern Ontario communities had the most votes of the 20 finalists in this year’s “Kraft Celebration Tour” competition, with Fort Smith, N.W.T. in third at 253,022 votes.
“The support that we had from all over the place was amazing as we basically doubled any other community’s votes for this year’s tour,” Silver noted.
“The whole community here really jumped on board with us,” he lauded. “And whenever we turned to business for help, they were willing to help, which is something that really stood out for me.
“I know we had tremendous support from NOCA [Northern Ontario Curling Association] and from curlers across Northern Ontario, and we even had people voting for us from New Zealand and Japan from what I’ve been told,” he added.
While the final vote tally was staggering, Briere wasn’t surprised with the amount of support the club’s bid garnered, especially from when he went around town in the lead-up to the vote.
“Everyone that I had talked to had heard about it, and I didn’t speak to anyone who didn’t know what the “Kraft Celebration Tour” was all about,” he remarked.
“With the way that everything was built up around town, in the district, and in International Falls, I wasn’t that surprised about having a high vote total.
“But to have that many votes is crazy, and the way that everyone pulled together here was crazy,” he admitted.
The major voting hub in town was the curling club itself, which kept its doors open all night for those who wanted to cast their vote.
“Myself and five others
ended up staying for all 24 hours, and there were about 15-20 people who were there all night voting in shifts,” Briere recalled.
“The club was packed from 4-7 p.m. on Friday with no free computers available, and there were a ton of people who were bringing their wireless devices to cast their vote,” he added.
“The support from the community has been great to see.”
Nine other local businesses also had computers on site for people to vote, with the traffic at those locations proving to be at a steady pace throughout their respective business hours.
The amount of work the curling club put in was noted by Mayor Roy Avis at Monday night’s council meeting, which took place shortly after the winning community was announced on TSN.
“I must commend the Fort Frances Curling Club’s committee and executive for a job well-done,” said Mayor Avis.
“I think it’s pulled the community together.
“When they started off, I thought maybe if they can get a couple hundred thousand [votes], they’d be lucky,” he admitted.
“But I understand the vote this evening was 518,082 for Fort Frances, which I think is remarkable.”
Mayor Avis stressed it is great to see the volunteerism at the local curling club.
“They’ve always been self-supporting,” he noted. “It’s all done by volunteer staff. They have very few employees.
“It’s just the public itself that puts things together and makes it happen.
“I think they really need to be commended for what they’ve done for Fort Frances,” the mayor added.
Following their meeting with TSN today, organizers will have more of an idea of when and where everything will take place Aug. 25, with formal announcements to be made in the coming weeks.
“The step to get TSN to come here is done, and now is when we plan the party,” Briere explained.
“After our meetings today, and after we get a chance to tour around town with them [TSN] to find a location, we will have a lot better idea of what will be taking place in full detail.
“We will also be looking for more volunteers, especially adult volunteers, to help out on that day,” he added.