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Curling community comes together for memorable Scotties

Women's provincial championship a roaring success

In curling terms Okotoks pulled off an eight-ender as hosts of the Alberta Scotties.

From the transformation of the Murray Arena from a hockey barn to a spectacular showcase for the roaring game to the on and off ice personal touches the 2020 Sentinel Storage Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts got the golden seal of approval from the curling community.

“We were extremely pleased with the event,” said Scotties co-chair Atina Ford Johnston. “With the turnout of the spectators, with the amount of support from the community, the Town of Okotoks, our major event sponsors.”

Putting on an event of this magnitude is no overnight project — though it might have led to a couple sleepless nights along the way.

“Our 19 host committee chairs have worked super hard over the last year, tirelessly,” Ford Johnston said. “Mike (Libbus) slept at the curling club one night when he was putting the ice in and had two hours of sleep.

“We’ve been working our butts off basically over this last year and then to have over 150 volunteers show up and support us, things ran so smoothly, I’m very thankful for the amount of people and the work they put into this.

“And just the success we had this week feels really good.”

If you walked through the Okotoks Recreation Centre over the five-day competition chances are you ran into a red-jacket clad volunteer, holding open the door, taking tickets, setting up and taking down equipment among a litany of duties over the weekend.

“First off what a great job Okotoks has done hosting this event,” said Curling Alberta president Curtis Fairhurst at the closing ceremonies. “Thank you to Mike Libbus and Atina Ford Johnston and your leadership, directing the 170 volunteers that put this event on, that is truly an accomplishment and well done.”

The feedback from the athletes on the event echoed those sentiments and was overwhelmingly positive.

“The ice has been absolutely fantastic, I have no complaints about the ice, Mike (Libbus) has done an awesome job and we’re very happy,” said Team Rocque skip Kelsey Rocque after Saturday’s page playoff match. “Okotoks has been great, we haven’t had a ton of time just with how busy the schedule is to do any touring, but the volunteers here have been incredible the event has been awesome.

“We can’t say enough good things, it’s been a fantastic week.”

St. Albert’s Krysta Hilker, the skip of one of the surprise teams of the competition and one of four playoff qualifiers, spoke of how much the team was able to enjoy the week.

“Overall the entire event was amazing, all the volunteers and everyone was really accommodating,” Hilker said. “And very helpful and nice and the ice was great and being in an arena was really fun, having the fans there cheering you on.

“I definitely loved it.”

The eight-team round-robin tournament saw two draws per day and three on the Saturday as the playoff round kicked-off with fans packing the Murray Arena to take in the elite in Alberta curling and watch Team Laura Walker pull off the clean sweep to win its first provincial championship.

“The curlers stopped and made a point of saying things went very smoothly for them,” Ford Johnston said. “They felt very welcome, if they needed something, someone would step up to the plate and go get them something. I think they felt like they were well taken care of.

“They loved the ice conditions, loved the rocks, Mike’s ice is just amazing and we’re very thankful the whole thing went of as well as it did.”

The semifinal and final on Sunday were broadcasted on Sportsnet, giving more profile to the Alberta Scotties and Okotoks itself.

Ford Johnston said the organizers were already approached about hosting an event for next season.

“We want to make sure we don’t tire out our volunteer base, we’re pretty exhausted,” she said. “We also have to make sure we don’t fatigue our sponsors, or the Town itself and the facilities we have as well.

“I think we will take some time off now, and just relax and recuperate and come up with our final reports and then maybe in a couple years we might consider something again.”