Volunteers Susan Morriss

Victoria has a chance to shine during world curling event

Volunteer team helps city get ready to welcome curlers, fans to 2013 Ford World Men’s Championships

It’s a sunny morning and two grown women are busy digging in the sand behind the Victoria Curling Centre on Quadra Street.

But for Susan Morriss and Judy Tuson, filling up faux curling rocks to weigh them down – they’re part of a display in the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre lobby – is just one small job among many that volunteers are undertaking in preparation for the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championships.

The nine-day event gets underway Saturday at the Save-On Centre. Canada’s Brad Jacobs’ rink takes on Team China in the first draw at 2 p.m.

Volunteer co-ordinator Todd Troyer, a longtime curler himself, was part of the volunteer crew for the 2005 Ford Worlds, the first sporting event held in Victoria’s new arena. He remembers things being somewhat frantic heading into that event.

“It was a new beast. We hadn’t had one of these since the 1985 Briar (at the old Memorial Arena),” he recalls. “But we got into a rhythm.”

Not surprisingly, the majority of his roughly 500-member volunteers crew are curlers, primarily from the Victoria Curling Centre but also from Esquimalt, Juan de Fuca and Glen Meadows clubs.

Those working the main venue will be easy to spot in their official blue jackets, engaged as scorers, ice cleaners, statisticians and in other jobs. Many more work behind the scenes as drivers, set builders, banquet organizers and more.

A key member of the ceremonies committee, Barry Turner of Colwood is co-ordinating much of the pre-game pomp and pageantry for each games draw. A veteran volunteer with the 2005 Ford Worlds and the 2009 Scotties Canadian women’s championships in Victoria, he is excited to once again be part of a world-class event.

“Victoria is a showcase city and we’ve got a pretty good show for the rest of the world to see,” he says.

From the piping in of the teams, to assigning placard holders and flag bearers for each country, even arranging the dignitaries for the opening ceremonies, the goal is to create a good performance for the live crowd and the TV cameras.

“Putting on a good show is what the ceremonies group does, three times a day,” Turner says. “We have to work closely together and under pressure of a timeline.”

Fellow volunteer Debra Gibson is on the rallies and banquets committee plus lounge duty. She doesn’t curl, but comes from a family of curlers and has been a huge fan of the game for years.

Her first shift starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and she can’t wait for everything to get going.

“I’m really excited and really looking forward to whole week,” she says.

“It’s my first time volunteering for something like this. I wasn’t able to do it last time, but I really wanted to get involved. This is about the city, and the chance to make the city look good to the world is just amazing.”

Victoria Curling Centre general manager Bill Chester is impressed with the large number of people from his club who joined the volunteer ranks for the event.

“There’s no doubt curling comes from the heart, so whenever there’s an event of this nature coming to Victoria, everybody gets involved,” he says. “You put aside what you can and you help out.”

Volunteers have been working on the various aspects of the nine-day competition for more than a year – top-level committee members even longer, as the city was awarded the event in October 2011.

As with the 2005 Ford Worlds, the first sporting event held at the Save-On Centre, the neighbouring curling club will play an all-important social function.

With the ice out for the season, the club has been transformed into The Original 16 Patch, with a refreshment garden open 11 a.m. to midnight throughout the tournament, live entertainment in the evenings, and opportunities to hear the curlers and speak to them one-on-one in between draws.

The curling club is actually the first venue to host an event: tonight (March 29) sees a combination volunteer appreciation party and fan appreciation event, for ticket holders with special privileges.

The dedication level of local volunteers is amazing, Troyer says.

“You think you’ve got people scheduled and all that, but invariably people show up and say, ‘I’m not on shift? Put me in somewhere.’

“At a time when volunteerism might be down, everyone pitches in and helps,” he says. “All the volunteers are just raring to go.”

For draw times, activities and other details, visit curling.ca/championship/worlds.

editor@vicnews.com