A standard curling ice sheet


Planning a Bonspiel?
If you're hosting a curling bonspiel and need some pointers, you're in the right place.
The following information is based on a weekend bonspiel which would typically start on Friday afternoon/evening, and end on Sunday afternoon/evening.

Organizing a Curling Bonspiel

Points to consider

1.    Teamwork
            You'll need a team of people to help you.  The following is a list of duties or responsibilities that could be assigned to someone else.  Some of these
            duties may already belong to another person in your club.  Teamwork and reliable helpers will help your bonspiel run smoothly.

2.    The date

See what other bonspiels of the same type are happening in your area at the same time. Donít compete with another club near you. Support each other in your scheduling.

3.    Entry fee

Calculate what costs you must cover, and where you hope to make money in a bonspiel. You may make money at the bar, and break even with your bonspiel entry fee and costs.

4.    Saturday dinner

Dinner must be scheduled between games, or in a two hour interval where all curlers will have time to have dinner.
You must ensure that curlers coming off the ice have time for the customary beverage with the other team, before being rushed for dinner.
You must also ensure that teams going on the ice after dinner have time to eat and digest before having to go out on the ice.

5.    Saturday evening dance

The dance is optional.  For men's bonspiels, there is not usually a dance unless spouses/partners are invited to join the men for the evening.
The Saturday evening dance is customary for mixed bonspiels.  It may start around 8 or 9 pm, and may actually begin while there are still some curling games being played.  It is very important to still reserve tables for those teams coming off the ice, even though the hall may be filling up for the dance.  Usually a disc jockey is hired to take care of the music.  A few prizes for spot dances are always a welcome addition to the fun, and they encourage the crowd to get up and dance.

6.    Running the bar

During a bonspiel, the bar is a very important component of the overall atmosphere of the bonspiel.  Bar workers should be extremely friendly and willing to serve.  It is a good idea to have special drinks to go with any theme of a bonspiel.  For example, if a bonspiel has a Jamaican theme, you may want to have tequila drinks advertised and all of the required ingredients readily available.  Again, it is important that bar workers are readily willing to mix the required drinks.
Also, at the first sign of not having a curler's preferred drink or beer, it is a good idea to go out of your way to have that drink or beer available the next day.  This is always a much appreciated move on your part.
Empty glasses and bottles should be cleaned off tables quickly.  Patrons appreciate a clean table.
The telephone number for a taxi company must be readily available to all patrons, so that they are encouraged to take a cab home.  You must encourage all curlers to NOT drink and drive.

7.    Cleaning the club

When curlers arrive Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning, the club house and bathrooms must be very clean.  No evidence of the good time had the night before must be visible the next morning.  Curlers appreciate clean bathrooms, clean tables, and a clean floor.
The cleaning normally takes place after the closing of the bar in the evening, or very early in the morning before the first games.  It must not be done while curlers are in the club house. It must appear to have been done magically, while no one was looking.  That makes the curling club that much more inviting.

8.    Theme

Choosing a bonspiel theme is usually reserved for ladies' bonspiels.  If a theme is chosen for other bonspiels, the guidelines are similar to those for ladies' bonspiels.
When choosing a theme, you must consider many aspects: how the hall might be decorated, how curlers might dress up, what drinks at the bar might go with the theme, what "games" might be played, ...
a) decorating the hall:  The hall must be decorated to reflect the theme.  Upon entering the club, curlers must recognize the theme, so it's important to decorate the entrance too.  The bathrooms should reflect the theme as well, in some small way.  You might have tablecloths and small table decorations that reflect the theme as well.
b)  dressing up:  If you have a dress-up night, curlers are much more likely to dress up if the theme is an easy one to dress up for.  Some themes require actual costumes, where other themes simply require a little imagination.  Make sure this is something you've considered before deciding on a theme.  Offering prizes for best costumes, funniest, most imaginative, ... also encourages curlers to dress up.
It is very important that, if you expect other teams to dress up, the bonspiel organizers must be dressed up too.  Encourage the bar workers to dress up for the theme as well.  This always makes for a really positive atmosphere.
c)  drinks at the bar:  When choosing a few drinks that go with the theme, be inventive.  They don't have to be new drinks.  They can be existing drinks that you give special names to, in order to reflect the theme.  This all adds to the fun.  Make posters that promote these drinks to go in or beside the bar.
d)  games:  You might start with some kind of puzzle or trivia on the first night of the bonspiel.  This sets the tone of the theme.  Make sure there is a copy of this puzzle or trivia for each team, either in the envelope they receive upon arriving, or on their table after their first game.  Teams complete this puzzle and hand it in to the bonspiel chairperson (or other), and a winning team is chosen or drawn and given some little prize.
You may have ongoing games throughout the weekend, or games reserved for one night.  Whatever games you play, they must include everyone, and ensure that teams interact with other teams.  You may have all leads play against each other, for example.
Instead of games, some themes lend themselves well to skits.  Invite each team to prepare a skit and present it on the fun night.  If most teams participate, this usually makes for a great time and plenty of laughs.

9.    Door prizes

Prizes and draws always make a bonspiel more interesting.  Although curlers may not be winning curlers, they still feel good when they win a prize, no matter how small.
If you can get sponsors to donate prizes, you may draw these throughout the weekend.  Get a roll of double-sided tickets.  Put four tickets in each team envelope, and the matching tickets in a clean coffee can with lid.  Every once in a while, draw a ticket from the coffee can and attach it to a prize.  Display winning ticket numbers on a poster, with a brief description of the matching prize.  Curlers are encouraged to check their tickets with the poster regularly to see if they are winners.  If they find their matching ticket on the poster, they can see the bonspiel chairperson or designate to claim their prize.
If you do not get donations for prizes, you may purchase prizes and sell tickets rather than give them away.

10.    Raffle or 50/50 draw

In order to help pay for bonspiel expenses, you may want to have a 50/50 draw or a raffle.
    For a 50/50 draw, you need a roll of double-sided tickets.  You can sell your tickets $1 each or 3 for $2.  You give the buyer one side of the tickets and keep the other side in a basket or clean coffee can.  Make sure all curlers have been offered tickets, so go around the hall more than once, and during different curling draws.  Once you're done selling tickets, count up all of the money made.  Divide this amount by two.  You keep half of this amount and the other half will go to the winner.  Hence the name 50/50 draw, for 50% and 50%.  Draw a ticket from the basket or can.  Announce the winning number.  If no one claims the prize immediately, post the winning number somewhere along with the amount of money won, so that others may check their tickets later.
    You may hold a similar type of draw if you have a larger prize available to be won.  The ticket sales is similar to the 50/50 draw, but instead of winning money, the winner gets a prize.  Make sure your prize is displayed attractively, and that tickets are readily available for sale.

11.    Preparing the bonspiel draw

There are many points to consider when preparing a bonspiel draw.  If the person preparing the draw is inexperienced, they should seek advice and help from someone with experience.
    When choosing who plays who in the first draw, it is best to write all team names on small pieces of paper.  Put the names into small piles corresponding to times.  Draw two names from the pile and have them meet in the first game.  You may also encourage home teams to play out-of-town teams as much as possible for the first set of games.
    Also consider the following points:
a)  No team should have to play back-to-back games expect for the semi-finals and finals on the last day of the bonspiel.
b)  You should avoid having teams play consecutive games on the same sheet of ice.
c)  No team should have to play the same team twice within a bonspiel, except possibly for a final game.
d)  No team should have to play more than three games on the same day.  It is best to try to keep it at two games per day, whenever possible.
e)  The draw should be drawn out very neatly and large enough for all to see.  It should be easy to follow.  Only the bonspiel chairperson or his/her designate should update the bonspiel draw.  Winning teams must be encouraged to report their win to this person promptly in order for the draw to be updated.
f)  When teams play late on Friday night, they should not be the first draw on the ice on Saturday morning.  Remember that if teams play early, they are more likely to leave the club earlier in the evening, and this may cut into your bar profits.  You want the players of the latest draw to stay and have fun.

12.    Scheduling teams from out of town

Be considerate when scheduling teams from out of town.  Teams may find it difficult to arrive on time for the first draw and may request a later time.  If this is possible, out-of-town teams will appreciate it and are more likely to return to your bonspiel.

13.    Costs

Bonspiels should make money at the bar.  Other than that, all costs should be considered and only covered.  The bonspiel cost per team must cover the meal, prizes, disc jockey, and other major costs.  The cost of decorations and trivial items should be covered through the 50/50 draw or raffle.  Before setting the price for your bonspiel entry, check out comparable bonspiels and see what their entry fee is.  If yours is set at a much higher price, teams are likely to choose another bonspiel.

14.    Eye openers

Eye openers are a little boost for the morning coffee, a little "pick-me-up" that goes well with coffee.  They are usually provided by a sponsor for the curlers involved in the first draw each morning.  A lot of curlers appreciate this little bonus.

15.    Team envelopes

When teams arrive for a bonspiel, they should be received at the door or near the entrance by friendly, inviting faces.  A table might be set up for this purpose.  If teams have already paid their entry fee, they should be given the team envelope at this time.  If teams are paying as they arrive, their entry fee must be collected, and then they must be given the team envelope.  Team envelopes should be labeled with team names in order to ensure that all teams receive their envelope.  Items that must go in this envelope include:
a)  a welcoming letter that includes any draws to be made, time of the meal on Saturday, mention of the theme and expectations for dressing up or preparation of skits, and anything else that you deem important
b)  the rules of the bonspiel and the prize order and structure
c)  four meal tickets
d)  four tickets for the draws, if you are giving these tickets away
e)  freebies if available, such as coupons towards pizza, pens, gum, ...
f)  team puzzle or trivia questionnaire, if you wish
Team envelopes may not actually be in an envelope.  You may provide each team with a cup, a basket, or some other form of interesting container for all of the above.

16.    Basket for ladies' bathroom

During a mixed or ladies' bonspiel, it is important to have a basket of female-type goodies available.  This should include hand lotion, sanitary pads and tampons, band aids, safety pins, a child-proof bottle of aches and pain medicine, antacids, hair elastics, ...  Female curlers always appreciate this gesture, and although most do not need any of the items, it makes them feel good that you thought of them.

17.    Jell-O shooters

Jell-O shooters are quite popular. You can use different flavours of Jell-O and any liquor such as gin, vodka, rye, or tequila. Follow the instructions on the package of Jell-O, but when itís time to add the cold water or ice, add the liquor. Pour the prepared Jell-O into small 2-oz plastic cups. Place lid on top of each cup and refrigerate.  Jell-O shooters must be sold through the bar and the liquor used in them must be part of the liquor license.

Got a question?  or good suggestion?  We welcome your input at nic@mycurling.com.