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Kevin Madsen, Willmar Civic Center manager, runs a nipper over the surface of the ice Thursday at the Blue Line Area in preparation for this weekend’s curling bonspiel. The nipper trims the top of the pebble, frozen droplets of water on the ice surface that are applied with a pebbling wand. The pebble helps curling rocks slide. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Annual bonspiel to be hosted by Willmar, Minn., curling club

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — No longer just “that Olympic sport with brooms,” curling has become a popular pastime in the United States, including in the Willmar area.

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This weekend, the Willmar Curling Club will host its fifth annual New Year’s Bonspiel on Friday night and Saturday at the Willmar Civic Center.

Though some may be unfamiliar with the sport of curling, it’s seen a dramatic rise in the United States since its Olympic recognition in 2002, said Kevin Madsen, manager of the Willmar Civic Center.

“After that national exposure, the sport itself has been growing like crazy,” he said. “The big growth is in arenas like ours here in Willmar.”

This weekend’s bonspiel is an open invitational tournament, meaning that teams of all ages and abilities could register to play.The New Year’s Bonspiel is open to the public with no admission fee. It begins at 6 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Members of the Willmar Curling Club will be there both days to answer any  questions spectators may have.

This year, the bonspiel will have 13 teams from around the region, including teams from Brainerd, Buffalo, International Falls, St. Paul and Bismarck, N.D., as well as some local teams.

“Anyone is welcome to come out and watch the sport,” Madsen said. “We always have people here who can explain the sport and how it’s played.”

Started in 2004, the Willmar Curling Club now has more than 100 members, making it one of the fastest-growing curling clubs in the Upper Midwest, Madsen said. Many of the members are also certified curling instructors.

The Willmar Curling Club has league nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the season, as well as a junior program, an adaptive program and open curling on Saturdays. During open curling, anyone can come to the Civic Center and learn how to play from instructors and club members.

“One of the neat things about curling is that it’s an intergenerational sport for people of all ages and abilities,” said Matt Proehl, president of the Willmar Curling Club. “It’s a diverse sport and something anyone can do.”

In the past nine years, the club has grown substantially, Proehl said. This March, the club will host the U.S. Mixed National Championship for the first time at the Civic Center.

“It’s our first time hosting a tournament of that scale,” Proehl said. “We’re hoping to get a lot of people from the community interested and have them come out for that.”

Madsen said it’s important for the club to host these tournaments in Willmar.

“The bonspiels introduce your curling club to the rest of the state and other Midwest areas,” Madsen said. “Bonspiels are also a great way for our local curlers to get better. The competition level is very good.”

For Proehl, curling bonspiels are a way to meet people from other parts of the region.

“Curling is a very social sport,” he said. “It’s fun to be competitive and play teams from other areas and get to know them. You might be enemies on the ice, but when you’re done, you enjoy a snack or beverage together and socialize.”

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