Curling cuts across the generations
For 55 years, the Two Harbors Curling Club has brought together seasoned veterans and rookies eager to compete and socialize.
With interest in the sport growing nationwide, members hope to pass their passion on to the next generation of curlers.
"It's something to do over the wintertime," said THCC member Mike Granke. "Days are so short around here it's nice to get to come into a nice area where it's totally lit."
Membership attracts people hailing from different corners of the community. That's one of THCC President David Mount's favorite parts about curling.
"The curling club cuts across the community at a very different angle than other social circles that I belong to," Mount said. "I've met people through the club that I just wouldn't have ever had a reason to meet."
An example of that is a curler's age. It doesn't matter, according to Rhonda Studier-Sve, a former president of THCC.
"One thing about curling is that it's a sport for any age," she said.
On any given league night, curlers in their 20s through 80s might compete against each other on the ice.
Some of the more senior curling club members may no longer compete, but they still gather at the club on league nights to play cards around a circular table.
A social competition
Curling is as social as it is competitive. It's a tradition for opposing teams to gather for food and drinks after a game or bonspiel, a curling tournament.
"That idea of friendly competition is really essential to curling," Mount said.
When asked about the local significance of curling, Jeff Peterson pointed to the meat sticks, cheese, popcorn and beverages on the table in front of him.
"This is why we show up," Peterson said.
The curling club in Two Harbors goes back to 1963 when a group of curling enthusiasts rented a storehouse from Dakota, Missabe and Iron Range Railway. The club, then the Two Harbors Jaycees Curling Club, started by flooding a floor in the old building. Without any heat in the building, the ice required cold temperatures outside and was often inconsistent.
Two years later, the club built its own clubhouse on Highway 2, where the Two Harbors Fire Hall is located today.
But in 1991, that building burned down and the club built its current location connected to the Lakeview National Golf Course clubhouse.
Over the last few years, club numbers have remained steady at about 140 members, according to Mount, but THCC is trying to grow interest in the sport through community education classes, lessons, junior leagues and visits from the Two Harbors High School and William Kelley High School physical education classes.
It's a sport where sportsman is written into the rules, Mount said.
Nationally, curling interest is up. Membership in USA Curling, the sport's national governing body, has risen from 10,000 in 2002 to 20,000 in 2015. They credit the growth to greater exposure since curling became a full medal sport in the 1998 Winter Olympics.
THCC club member Kevin Olson agrees.
"I think there's a younger generation coming in," said Olson. "People are seeing it on the Olympics and different things and wanting to check it out."