The Lloydminster Heavy Crude Open Bonspiel has long been one of Lloydminster’s signature events. Oil industry workers would gather in teams for a five-day curling tournament, in which they could meet new people, share a couple of drinks and enjoy a fun and competitive bonspiel.
This year’s event, which runs from March 18 to 22, will aim to maintain that environment, but it won’t be as easy as it once was.
“We’ll never get back to what we were 10 years ago when we were at 96 (teams),” said bonspiel chairman John Stanyer.
The 2015 bonspiel has 56 entered teams. At first sight, 56 seems like a lot of teams, but it pales in comparison to what the bonspiel used to attract.
With the oil market reeling throughout the prairies, Lloydminster is no longer a key destination for teams that used to come in from out-of-town. It also hasn’t helped that the Lloydminster bonspiel is competing with another city’s this year.
“We had a couple teams from Edmonton last year, but they have their event on the same weekend as ours so that kind of took those away from us,” said Stanyer.
Despite a significant decrease in entries this year, Stanyer says sponsorship for the event has held steady.
“Actually, I’m really surprised that the sponsorship has been great, we’ve had a really good response. I think a lot of the sponsors that we have, they still want to take the presence in the community.”
And while there may be a cut-down in attendance, the festive atmosphere will surely return, if it ever leaves, when Don “Stumpy” Bertrand is celebrated as the Oilman of the Year for his years of service in the oil industry.
As for the future of the Lloydminster oilmen’s bonspiel, organizers are hoping to return it to near its glory days.
“If we get to 72 (teams) again, that would be great,” Stanyer.
Just like the end of the curling rink, though, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.