Like granite stones sliding and colliding on the frosty playing surface, two unlikely forces – the icy sport of curling and the down-home sense of Southern culture – will collide soon at Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail.
On Aug. 10-12, the Charlotte Centre Curling Club, founded in 2010, will host its first full bonspiel – a Scottish term for a curling tournament and social gathering.
Holding such an event, in which 96 players from 10 states and Canada will compete, is a big deal for a young club like Charlotte’s.
Organizers are drawing on the sport’s developing presence in Dixie, naming the event “The Grits ‘n’ Granite bonspiel.” (Granite is what the sport’s gliding objects, or “stones,” are made of.)
“We didn’t know if we would even sell out (registration), and we did in just a couple of months,” said Rich Martin, the club’s communication director. “For such a young club to have come this far is beyond our best expectations.
“We’re not just a group that gets together every week to curl. We have much bigger plans.”
The Charlotte Curling Club, with 56 members, wants to develop a curling culture in Charlotte like that of the northern U.S. and Canada. The club’s membership peaked at 85 members last year, and interest usually spikes following a Winter Olympics.
The club has league play throughout the year and hosts “Learn to Curl” sessions for people who want to try the game. Its home facility is the Extreme Ice Center, but the club has a plan to construct its own dedicated facility in the next five years.
Some of the more serious players travel to tournaments around the country. In February, four participated in the U.S. Women’s Curling Association National Championship in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
In April, Charlotte will host a mobile curling clinic called Hot Shots. Participants will receive instruction from some of the world’s top players.
In January, the club hosted a mini-bonspiel, a two-day event that attracted 16 teams of four players, proving the Charlotte group was ready to host a bonspiel of greater magnitude.
Club bonspiel coordinator Carol McKee of Waxhaw started preparing for the Grits ’n’ Granite tournament in June 2011. She says her work’s been almost a full-time job for the last fourth months.
Though registration is closed, the club solicited the endorsement of the Charlotte Sports Commission, which agreed to promote the bonspiel through its website and social media.
The event’s logo is a hornet carrying a stone and a broom while eating a bowl of grits.
“We feel there’s a lot of commonality between curling and the culture of the South,” McKee said. “We wanted to show that this is a wonderful place to live and that we love curling.”
All meals are included in the cost of competing in the three-day event, and that includes grits for breakfast every day. Also on the menu throughout the weekend will be barbecue and banana pudding.
On a bonspiel’s final day, it is a tradition to have a bagpiper honor the Scottish origins of the sport with a tune, and for the players to follow by drinking a shot of Scotch. In what might be the boldest act to honor Southern culture, players at the Grits ‘n’ Granite tournament will substitute moonshine for Scotch.
Though a bonspiel has as much to do with socializing as competing, the Grits ’n’ Granite can boast the presence of an Olympic-caliber player. As a fundraiser for the Charlotte Curling Club, Wisconsin’s Debbie McCormick and her husband auctioned off the other two openings on their team. The winning bid of $575 was submitted by Mooresville couple Jay and Ronda Harlow, the club’s founding members.