Organizers of the year-old Curl Berkshires says interest in the 600-year-old sport tends to peak during the Winter Olympics.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — You don't need blades to hit the ice.
"I can't skate, but I can curl," says Gerrit Blauvelt. "It's not a requirement that you have any physical ability. Curlers come as young as 5 or 6, and there are people curling into their 90s.
"If you want to do more competitive levels, there are those opportunities."
For the uninitiated, there is the Curling Club of the Berkshires.
Blauvelt is the vice president of the year-old non-profit, which will offer an open house for would-be curlers on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club.
Blauvelt said the club formed last year when area residents who were regularly traveling to Schenectady, N.Y., and Norfolk, Conn., to find ice decided to join forces. Curl Berkshires competed under its own banners at out-of-state events last winter; this year, it has found a home on Melville Street.
And they found it in time for the winter of 2017-18, when countless Americans once again will be mesmerized by the shuffleboard-like sport that traces its roots to 16th-century Scotland and is a national obsession north of the border.
"In an Olympic year, that's when people really want to see it," Blauvelt said. "Growth for clubs always seems to peak in those years. We wanted to make sure this year, we had the opportunity so people in Berkshire County who wanted to try the sport could do so."
Blauvelt is one of those who was inspired by the Olympics.
"When I was in college, I saw it on TV in 2002," he said, referring to the Salt Lake City games. "I said, 'I want to try this,' and one of my friend's girlfriends was there, and this was a person who was from Norfolk, Conn. We were going to school in Gettysburg, Pa., and she drove an hour a week to go to a curling club in Potomac, Md."
Eight years later, another Olympiad moved Blauvelt to return to the sport.
"I moved to Boston in 2008, and two years later I was watching the games in Vancouver, and my wife said, 'Let's get you involved,' " he said. "There was a club starting in Bridgewater, Mass., and I started curling there."
A few years ago, Blauvelt moved to the Berkshires.
"It's a great community, but there hasn't been curling out here," he said. "I love the Berkshires and would love to curl here, and I was interested in getting it started out here."
Curl Berkshires hopes to attract curlers of all ages through events like Saturday's open house and, perhaps, a clinic for youngsters during the winter school vacation in December.
One of the advantages is that the cost is minimal. Curl Berkshires charges a small fee to help cover the cost of ice time, but the club provides the stones, the brooms (used to sweep the ice to increase or decrease friction and thus affect the speed of the stone) and even "sliders" for curlers to wear on their feet.
More serious participants can invest in special shoes, and those cost anywhere from $75 to $200 for the high end models but last for years.
"You can get everything together for less than $300 for a decent setup [including your own broom] to be competitive for a number of years," Blauvelt said.
The Boys & Girls Club is not a dedicated curling facility like the one at the Schenectady (N.Y.) Curling Club, but Curl Berkshires is grateful to the support of the Boys & Girls Club. Curl Berkshires plans to host events there and at the Norfolk and Schenectady facilities.
"There are two kinds of curling: arena curling and dedicated facilities," Blauvelt said. "At a dedicated facility, they spend more time to develop the ice to make it as good as they can to just use it for curling.
"With arena, you get the ice, and you have 30 minutes to an hour to get ready and then have the event and take down the curling stuff."
On Saturday, Curl Berkshires held a season-opening members-only event that drew a couple dozen competitors.
Before they could get going, they had to prep the ice. First, they sprayed it with water to form little droplets, or pebbles, of ice. Then, they dragged stones across the surface using a sled-like contraption to scrape down the pebbles, eliminating high spots and creating the desired surface. Finally, Blauvelt and friends used a marker to draw the "house," the circle into into which teams slide stones to score points.
"If you have help from the rink — and the Boys & Girls Club has been very receptive — there are things they can do like having the Zamboni driver drive differently," Blauvelt said. "If you have receptive rinks, the quality of arena curling has gone up in the last 10 or 20 years.
"We can talk to other arena clubs and get ideas about what their best practices are. But we also put the Boys & Girls Club in contact with other places that do curling."
Learn more about Curling Club of the Berkshires or to register for Saturday's open house at the Boys & Girls Club, visit www.curlberkshires.org.
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Markey Speaks at Last-Minute Rally in Park Square
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Markey is running for a second full term and has visited the Berkshires several times during the campaign.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Edward Markey drove straight from Washington, D.C., to Pittsfield on Tuesday at the tail end of his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate to condemn the Republican administration and promise better days if Democrats win next week.
"This is the birthplace of freedom, right out here in the Berkshires," he said. "In 1776, they declared independence. ... well, our declaration of independence is on Nov. 3, 2020, from Donald Trump."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second full term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
Markey said the Democrats are in a revolution to rid the United States of President Donald Trump by voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. By doing this, he said, voters will be protecting health care for hundreds of thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions, fighting for a livable wage, taking action to save the planet, having a future where where leaders believe in science
The progressive, who is known for proposing the Green New Deal with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was supported by Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilors Patrick Kavey, and Helen Moon.
Tyer said she was notified on Monday evening that Markey would be driving from Washington to Pittsfield for this last-minute rally.
"What we all know is that this election is a train running down the tracks," Tyer said. "And for all of us that share the values that Senator Markey has exhibited in his time in the Senate, is important for us to come and recommit ourselves to all of those values and to stand with him today and with all Democrats who share these values because this election is probably going to be the most important election for many of us in our lifetimes."
On Monday, Markey was at the Capitol to vote against Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed 52-48 by the Senate along party lines, with the exception of GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is in close race for re-election in Maine.
Markey opposed Coney Barrett, saying her appointment puts civil liberties on the chopping block, including marriage freedom, reproductive freedom, and voting rights for already disenfranchised communities. Democrats also believe that she will help gut the Affordable Care Act; the court is expected to hear arguments on its constitutionality on Nov. 10.
Referring to the protection of the Affordable Care Act, Markey got a chuckle from the crowd when he said. "We know that we can have the ACA, we can have the ACB, but we cannot have both, we cannot have the ACA and Amy Coney Barrett at the same time."
"In order to see this future we need to elect Joe Biden and usher in a new wave of diverse progressive leadership," Markey said. "And we need to remove the most racist and incompetent President in American history from the White House."
In a statement on the Senate floor on Monday, Markey said Coney Barrett's philosophy of originalism, which is looking back to what the Founding Fathers meant in 1787, is dangerous for the United States. Originalism is racist, sexist and homophobic, he said, and will lead to the pretense that allows the overriding of Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, Civil Rights and civil liberties that have progressed over generations.
"Yesterday, Trump and his Republican lapdogs steamrolled Amy Coney Barrett onto the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, Republican leadership violated their own rule which was that the Senate would not consider nominations for our Supreme Justice in the last year of a presidential term," Markey said, referring to the Republican-led Senate's refusal to consider President Obama's court choice in 2016. "Hypocrisy is too weak of a word to describe the sham that [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Republicans have made out of this appointment process, any senator so blatantly breaking his or her own word on such a profound appointment is just plain wrong."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
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