OLDS — The Olds Farmers and Farmerettes bonspiels, slated for next month, have been cancelled for the first time in their history.
This would have been the 41st annual Olds Farmers bonspiel and the 38th annual Farmerettes bonspiel.
Plans had called for them to take place Feb. 8-12.
Corey Noel, the chair of the bonspiels, confirmed the cancellation in an email.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we just felt it was in everyone's best interests and safety to not run the bonspiels this year,” Noel wrote.
“Planning gets underway each year in the fall time, but we were fairly certain right from the get-go that we wouldn't be able to run this year.
“Bonspiels in Didsbury and Innisfail had already announced cancellations and we felt we'd be in the same boat.”
“We're extremely thankful for all the curlers and businesses who support the bonspiel(s) year after year and look forward to having them all back next February," Noel added. “We absolutely are very excited to begin planning the 2022 edition of the bonspiel(s).”
Noel and Gary Richards, who handles advertising for the bonspiels’ organizing committee, both say organizers don’t really lose any money by cancelling the two events.
"We don’t really generate any expenses if we’re not doing the bonspiel(s),” Richards said during an interview.
“The bit of money we have on-hand will be – we won’t be hurting in any way, other than there’s maybe a bank statement. We don’t file a tax return or anything,” he said.
Richards noted ads have been running announcing the cancellation and a mailout sent out to most sponsors will confirm that.
“We cannot say thank you enough to all of the sponsors who are with us year after year and are critical to the bonspiels running each year,” Noel wrote.
Richards, who lives just southeast of Olds, has been a volunteer for the bonspiels for more than 30 years.
He said he’s rather sad the bonspiels have been cancelled because he enjoys the socialization that takes place during the event.
However, he also felt it had to be done.
“I really thought about it a long time, because I thought, you know, it would be a lot more work. There’s no doubt about that," he said.
Richards said there were just too many uncertainties, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One was how many teams would be allowed to participate. Another was whether participants would adhere sufficiently to pandemic protocols to ensure everyone remained safe.
“The group would have to be very much on board – all of us – because I just think we’d have to change so much," he said.
Richards said when the curling season began in the fall he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he used to due to concern about how some people didn’t seem to be following the rules “diligently.”
“I think for the most part, people – I think in the rural communities, people are a little less diligent maybe,” he said.
Richards said another big concern was asking for sponsorship at a time when the fallout from COVID has created great hardship for local businesses.
“I'm a farmer and this COVID has not affected me nearly as much as a lot of other businesses so I didn’t feel that bad about approaching the ag-based side of the sponsorship,” he said.
However, Richards was not comfortable going into local businesses and asking for money, given the fact that so many have suffered during the pandemic.
“You know, the big guys get all the glory, but the little guys are our mainstay to this town and this bonspiel,” he said. "I just wouldn’t feel good about saying, ‘Hey, you got an extra 50 bucks for me?’”
There is talk that the virus – or variants of it – may still be causing problems in early 2022, but Richards is cautiously optimistic that won’t prevent organizers from going ahead with the bonspiels next year.
“Some of the stuff has gone down just because of the heightened effect of the hygiene, for those that are following the hygiene,” he said.
“And I think for the most part, most people are being far more diligent about mask wearing and hand washing and stuff," he said.
“So you know, it might – once it becomes normal, maybe we’ll avoid worse things down the road. Who knows?”