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Bemidji Curling Club members Mark Varriano, left, and Doug Hood help unload new rocks on Thursday morning in preparation for the Junior National Curling Champion-ships. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

U.S. Junior National Curling Championships: Hosting event is big job, but worth it

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Hosting the 2010 Junior Curling National Championships is a big deal for Bemidji, said Terry Matson, who is co-chairing the event along with Brian Glynn.

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It's also a lot of work, "way more than I thought a year ago when I thought this was a good idea," Matson joked.

"Just in the last few weeks, one of the biggies has been the number of people and companies that want to do live broadcasts from (the Bemidji Curling Club) and broadcast it over the Internet," Matson said.

The club has upgraded its high-speed Internet connection and Paul Bunyan Telephone is boosting the speed for the week, "so we have extra power for media that's there," Matson said, adding that wireless hotspots also have been added. Work has also been done to accommodate TV crews.

One of the biggest areas has been promotion and advertising, Matson said, adding that a program was put together with teams and information, containing advertising.

"Putting that book together, that was a big job, getting those ads sold, keeping track of that," Matson said. "We also sold banners. Those banners sold better than I thought they would."

Those advertisements will bring business, he said.

"You don't have a more loyal group out there than curlers," Matson said, adding that curlers will support merchants who support curling.

The Curling Club will sell souvenir cups and glasses that will come with refill discounts. Curling Club pins and city of Bemidji pins will also be sold.

Finding lodging for 120 people when Polar Daze events are still going on was a challenge, Matson said.

AmericInn, located across from the club, is the host motel. Other sponsor motels, both nearby, are the Super 8 and Holiday Inn Express.

The curlers stay in motels, but they also have host families who provide a point of contact for people from out of the area.

"If they've got any question about what to do or where to go, they have someone in town they can trust," Matson said. "Most of the time, host families might bring them to their house for a home-cooked meal and go root for them at games."

Lynn Baird, who is organizing the host families, is also one of the local teachers whose classes are adopting a team.

"While they're here, those curlers ... in their free time, they're going to go to the class," Matson said.

The influx of curlers and spectators will provide a major impact on the community, he said, as visitors go to restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, retail shops and other local businesses.

"We get a lot of spectators," he said. "It's fun to come and watch. It's a high quality of curling. I can sit and watch this all week long."

Locally, the big thrill is having five Bemidji curlers competing, he said. "That's huge."

Trevor Andrews, Aaron Tasa, Nic Wagner and Mark Fenner, all of Bemidji, form the Andrews rink, which recently added Ben Wilson of Hibbing.

Josh Bahr of Bemidji is on the Aaron Wald rink with Jarad Zezel and John Muller. They form the top-ranked junior team in the nation.

Tickets will be available at the door at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Reserved window seating upstairs overlooking the ice is $150 for the entire event. Individual seats are not reserved.

To buy reserved seats, e-mail tandrews@paulbunyan.net.

General seating is $75 for the entire event, or per game for $5 per draw for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for ages 6-12. (Those younger than 6 get in free.) Tickets for playoffs and semifinals are $10 and a ticket to the final is $15.

New USCA rocks

Glynn is handling the competition area of the planning, with responsibilities such as approving the draw schedule, preparing the ice and getting badges printed for players, coaches and scorekeepers.

"We have to do a number of things at the club," Matson said.

For example, metal strips must be installed in the ice.

"When you curl, you have to release the rock at the hog line," Matson said, noting that in the past, someone had to sit at the line and watch to see if the rock was released in time.

"That was real cold to sit and stare at that and not move."

But now, for the championships, a metal strip will be added and the rocks will have sensors that will trigger a light if the curler hangs on too long.

There's good news and bad news about those rocks.

The good news is that the U.S. Curling Association has decided that instead of using rocks that exist at the host club, brand new official rocks, are being unveiled that will be used from now on.

"We're the first site that's going to get to use them," Matson said. "That's got a lot of us excited. We can't wait to try them."

The bad news is that the handles on 80 rocks (16 rocks each for five sheets of ice) had to be swapped for new handles with sensors.

Matson said at least 50 Curling Club members are involved in some way in the preparations for the competition.

"I think we have seven or eight sign-up sheets," he said. "Lots of people are volunteering to make this all happen."

Local flavor

The club will have its regular food menu each day, with the addition of some local specialty foods that will be showcased, on specific days: Beers' Black Dog barbecue sauce with pulled-pork sandwiches, KC's Best wild rice soup, pizza from the Peppercorn and pancakes and syrup from Red Lake Nation Foods. Dave's Pizza, owned by Pete Fenson, is donating pizza for Friday night's welcome party.

Juan and Jackie Vanasse, food managers, will run the kitchen in the evening. Marv "Rocky" Rockstrom, will fill in during the day.

"The food's going to be fantastic," Matson said.

A post-competition banquet will be held Jan. 30 at the National Guard Armory, with Jackie Vanasse in charge. Doug Fuller and Kent Minske will fry up Red Lake walleye and Kent Bahr has donated wild rice.

"That will be a unique dinner," Matson said.

Kent Bahr is in charge of opening and closing ceremonies. A dance will be held after the event.

Planning the event is a learning experience, Mattson said.

"Hopefully I'm making this job easier for whoever does it the next time."

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