By Steve Hubrecht
The Bonspiel on the Lake is back again this winter. It’s the landmark weekend of the year if you’re a local curler, and if you’re not a curler, the fun and festive energy of the event makes for a great time.
This year, as in most recent years, the bonspiel, put on by the Invermere Curling Club, will coincide with the annual Snowflake Festival, which is hosted by the District of Invermere.
The bonspiel will involve 64 teams from not just the Columbia Valley but throughout British Columbia and Alberta, and even Manitoba, as well as a few from south of the border. All will be playing on the ice at Taynton Bay.
This year’s bonspiel will run from Friday, Jan. 19 through to Sunday, Jan. 21. It will be the 39th edition of the event, which began back in 1982 and has been held outdoors most years since, with warm temperatures pushing the event indoors on a few occasions and the COVID-19 pandemic seeing it cancelled for a couple of years.
The 2024 edition will follow the same formula as years past, with one exception: while regular bonspiel participants are busy attending the dinner and dance at the Columbia Valley Centre on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 20, 16 teams of curlers will have a chance to participate in a mini bonspiel.
Invermere Curling Club vice-president Richard Brunner told the Pioneer the Bonspiel on the Lake can be hard to get into. “We’ve had a fairly big wait list for quite a few years now,” he said. “This mini bonspiel will give an opportunity to curl for people who might not otherwise get a chance to participate.”
Brunner grew up in Invermere and remembers watching some of the early bonspiels as a youngster.
“It’s really nice to be out on the lake, under the lights, with fireworks and music, and the stars overhead,” he said. “To have an event this big on a lake, it’s pretty rare. You can curl anywhere in Canada indoors. But to be in a 64-team bonspiel outdoors, that’s unique.”
The Snowflake Festival will run the same weekend, at Kinsmen Beach, right next to the bonspiel. There will be live music and other entertainment, fireworks, bonfires, skating and food, with many local restaurants serving up appetizer size portions of their best dishes in a mini ‘Taste-of-the-Valley’ type event.
“I’m always excited to see this event come around. It’s a real high point for citizens and visitors alike,” said Invermere Mayor Al Miller. “It’s very enjoyable, even if you’re not a curler, to just go down to the beach and soak up the atmosphere.”