Anyone visiting Ice Station Valencia on Friday afternoon was met with a sign on the front door that read – in commanding, capitalized, red text – “No public skating today.”
Underneath, in smaller, more polite lettering, the sign read “Please come watch some curling.”
Upon entering the rink, it was impossible not to watch curling. Two-hundred, twenty-four curlers of all levels had completely taken over the two main playing surfaces at Ice Station for the 10th annual Hollywood Curling Bonspiel.
“It’s been tremendous. The energy in the air, people are so excited to be here, they’re so positive,” said Liza Beres, president of Hollywood Curling and co-chair of the Bonspiel committee.
The Bonspiel – which is curling lingo for “tournament” – began on Friday and will continue throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday night will be highlighted by a celebrity exhibition in which professional, world-class curlers will be paired with Bonspiel competitors for an exhibition game.
“There’s not many other events like this that you can sort of, I can’t think of any other sports where just an average person can jump in and play with Olympians,” said Bonspiel competitor and Saugus resident Jeff Johnson. “You’re not going to play one-on-one with LeBron or any of that.”
The tournament has grown exponentially since its inception. The first-ever Hollywood Curlers Bonspiel was a one-day event with 16 teams and a taco truck. At this year’s Bonspiel, there are 56 teams from across the United States and Canada, with 32 teams comprising the “open division” for more experienced curlers and 24 playing in the beginners’ tournament.
There are typically fewer teams at the event, but when a Bonspiel celebrates its 10th anniversary, you’ve got to go big.
The sport of curling also got a boost after Team USA took home gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“We just put together a team and went to learn to curl and we were hooked right away,” Johnson said of how he first got involved with the sport.
“And I think that’s true of a lot of people that come out and try it. It takes a little while to get really good at it but it doesn’t take that long to get good enough to jump in the mix.”
Spectators are encouraged to come watch the Bonspiel action, which begins at 8 a.m. on each day of the event. Championship games will be held on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Admission and inspiration to try out a new sport are free.
“We’re a firm believer that once you play in your first bonspiel,” Beres said, “you are a curler for life.”