It was a day to get excited about curling as people gathered at the Nexera Flexihall.
What brought them out on a dull and cool Saturday was the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Community Fest.
The event celebrated the return of the Meridian Canadian Open, which will take place Jan. 14-19, 2020, featuring the top 16 men’s and 16 women’s curling teams in the world.
Fans attending the Community Fest could learn more about the 2020 Meridian Canadian Open while enjoying food, music and activities for the whole family.
The Community Fest also featured appearances by Olympic gold medalist and World Curling Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Martin, as well as 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Chelsea Carey.
Carey said attending an event like the one in Yorkton is a “fun” break from curling, adding her team was actually playing as a threesome in Red Deer as she visited with fans in the city here.
“It’s fun for us to see the community get excited about the (upcoming) event.”
Carey said fans in Yorkton were great when Pinty’s held events here before, and as a competitor she appreciates when the stands are full.
“Definitely it is fun to be part of that energy,” she said, adding have a “good loud crowd is hard to beat as an athlete.”
Martin said one thing that really sets a crowd in Yorkton apart is its understanding of the sport.
“You’re in a curling community here. Players love coming here,” he said, adding “the knowledge of the fans, the players really appreciate that. It’s not just the support but the knowledge.”
Martin said lots of fans understand the sport but here it’s a knowledge gained “by osmosis at the kitchen table.”
Beyond the interest in Pinty’s returning to Yorkton, Carey said it is exciting to be involved in the sport right now as interest in curling is growing around the world. She said the sport has always been popular in Canada, but have curling in the Winter Olympics and annual series such as Pinty’s is taking it to new levels of interest.
“The more exposure we can get the better for the sport,” she said.
Martin picked up on the growth of the sport.
“Worldwide curling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world; in the U.S., in South Korea, Japan, China, Russia,” he said. “There’s so much growth it’s terrific.
“The Grand Slam of Curling has a great deal to do with it.”
It helps the overall quality of the sport continues to improve too, offered Carey.
“There’s a lot more good international teams,” she said. “Canada is not dominant anymore. We have more depth, but if you look at the top-15 teams only half are Canadian.”
Yorkton will be the fourth of six communities participating in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule this season. The total purse for the entire Grand Slam is $2.1 million.