What happens when you mix Scottish heritage and curling? A funspiel

Eleanor Larney curling during the 25th annual Robbie Burns Fun Spiel. Haggis (top left) was served for dinner at the event.

There was plenty of fun to be had at the 25th annual Robbie Burns Fun Spiel at the Annandale Curling Club.

More than 120 people showed up to curl and celebrate Robbie Burns Day Jan. 27 at the sold-out Sunday Mixed League event.

“It’s just a fun day out to basically try curling … or get some practice in,” says Annandale co-organizer Andrew Ostler.

“At least to get people to feel somewhat comfortable getting into the hacks, lying down the ice.”

Robbie Burns day is Jan. 25 and celebrates traditional Scottish culture and traditions. Burns was a Scottish poet born on Jan. 25, 1759. He is considered by many to be the national poet of Scotland and is credited as a pioneer of the romantic movement.

At the Fun Spiel, there were two groups of 16 teams of four players each. The groups played a pair of two-hour games. The two groups were both piped onto the ice by bagpiper Eric White.

For each round, participants could play a variety of games, such as a no-talking round where players had to communicate using hand signals. Others included knocking a blue rock out of the centre, similar to bocce ball, instead of a regular curling game.

“A couple ends  are standard rules, a lot are just fun little things to try and mix it up to give people a different experience of the game,” says Ostler.

Some teams dressed up and followed a theme. Some wore hockey jerseys, some wore matching plaid, or funny hats.

Players could win various prizes for participating. These included plaid dishware, kitchenware, tools and reed diffusers.

One way to do this was to enter the raffle for “hogging the rock”. Each time a player could not get the rock past the hog line, they had to put their name in the “Hog Box.”

Dawn Goodwin, 54, putting her name in the 'hog box'.
Dawn Goodwin, 54, putting her name in the ‘hog box’.

If a player made a ‘double takeout’, where they eliminated two of their opponents’ rocks in one shot, they had to wear a funny hat.

Often, in curling, teams are divided by men and women, but in the case of the Robbie Burns Fun Spiel, it didn’t matter.

“This is one bonspiel where it doesn’t matter if you’re two men, two women, or all men, or all women. It’s an open ‘spiel. I’ve got teams of all women and teams of all men and teams of three and one… so anything goes,” says Annandale Sunday League President and graphic designer Cathy Manard.

The day ended with an acknowledgment of the haggis, read by Les Dickson and traditional Scottish dinner of meat pie, haggis (a traditional meal made of sheep innards wrapped in sheep’s stomach), mashed neeps (turnips), carrots and mashed tatties (potatoes).

After dinner, there was a dessert of cake, Scottish shortbread and tea.

“Everyone loves it and they all go home with a prize,” says Manard.

The annual event also included scotch taste testing and plenty of tartan on display.