The biggest winner at the Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties was the St. Albert Curling Club.
Every day the hosts for the Tournament of Hearts scored an eight ender with standing-room only crowds to witness top-notch curling while soaking up the fan-friendly atmosphere.
“From day one we exceeded expectations,” said the unflappable Jackie Rae Greening, chair of the organizing committee. “The volunteers in this club are nothing short of amazing and that’s why I love these type of events because it brings a team together and boy the St. Albert Curling Club just rocked it.”
The 9:30 a.m. opening draw Wednesday set the stage for the best Alberta Scotties ever.
“It was full and the first draw on Wednesday morning is never full,” Greening said. “And then for the opening ceremonies I kept telling the team no one comes to it so don’t worry about it. Well, people were hanging from the rafters for the opening ceremonies and the committee looked at me like I was nuts. This woman doesn’t know what she is talking about.”
The next morning extra bleachers supplied by the Boston Pizza Cup committee for the upcoming provincial men’s championship in Westlock helped accommodate the overflow of spectators “so nobody was without a seat,” said Greening, who appreciated the act of kindness.
“What I love is how we responded right away,” added Greening, who admitted Wednesday “was one of those days where the committee laughed at me because I kept going, ‘I didn’t see that one coming.'”
Greening’s goal was to transform the Alberta Scotties into the ultimate curling spectacle.
“We just treated it absolutely the same as a worlds or an Olympic trials. We just made it smaller,” said the former St. Albert Curling Club president and 2011 wall of fame inductee at the club.
“I’ve been in over 35 provincial championships in my day from junior to senior so I’ve seen a lot that haven’t been so great and some that have been great and from that perspective I wanted to make sure from the fans to the sponsors to the curlers everyone has a great experience.
“Also, so many times organizing committees forget about the stars who put on the show and coming from a curling perspective and the experience of running the Ford Worlds to the Olympic Curling Trials has really helped make it special for those stars.”
Another huge plus was the makeover of the six-sheet rink into a fabulous mini-arena with drapery and bleachers used by the St. Albert Curling Club as one of the host sites for the annual Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival of the Arts.
“It gave us the home run of giving it that feel,” Greening said. “The infrastructure that was already in place was extremely helpful.”
Buddy Beley, president of the St. Albert Curling Club, was popping buttons over the overwhelming success of the first Alberta Scotties in St. Albert since 1984.
“We’re extremely thrilled of the event and how it went over and it starts at the top. You need somebody like a Jackie Rae Greening to be your tournament chair, bring in some really key vice chairs and then break it down with all the volunteers,” Beley said. “Our volunteers have been exceptional. They’ve done everything asked of them and because of them this event has been nothing but the best for this club.
“Our club is so proud of how we’ve handled it and I imagine we’ll probably do it again at some point down the road.”
The last major competition the St. Albert Curling Club hosted was the 2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup at Servus Credit Union Place and Beley hinted plans are in the preliminary stages to secure a future Boston Pizza Cup at Go Auto Arena.
Beley was blown away by the turnout of fans – from daily admission and ticket packages to packed VIP Patio section and Sponsor Loft – over the five-day, 12-draw and 33-game festivities.
“The walk-ups, the daily tickets for the daily draws, was phenomenal. We never really expected that so we had to bring in extra bleachers after Wednesday to allow for probably 100-plus more seats out on the arena and they were full all draws,” Beley said. “We adapted and we did it.”
The highlight of the Alberta Scotties for Beley was Wednesday’s ceremonial first rock.
“I will always remember the junior (Emily Clark) throwing the rock and the Little Rockers (Addison Hafso and Aubrey Kennedy) sweeping to the senior (Ruby Shanley, 87) holding the broom. That was very, very cool.”
Greening’s crackerjack committee consisted of four vice chairs, or ‘red jackets’ by the colour of their coats, and they were assisted by more than 125 recognizable volunteers in their blue coats.
Dave Klatchuk was the vice chair of facilities.
“We wanted to get as much seating as we could in the arena and when we started out we were only going to do 80 seats in the riser area and we ended up expanding to 150,” Klatchuk said. “After the first day there were so many people here that we actually brought in more bleachers for the event so that was great.”
The former St. Albert Curling Club president gave the Alberta Scotties two thumbs up.
“It’s been fantastic,” Klatchuk said. “The curling club itself really supported the event really well. The volunteers we had were fantastic and the community really supported it by coming out and buying tickets and coming to the event. It was just super.”
Karen Stephen was the vice chair of hospitality, ranging from bar and kitchen services to pageantry, as well as treating all the curlers, coaches, officials and volunteers like rock stars.
“We had some plans in place we wanted to achieve to really have an upscale event and I made sure the directors I pulled together were creative and thought outside the box and some of them were actually involved in provincial type of events before,” Stephen said. “We wanted to really show Alberta and the rest of the country what a club could to do to pull off a fantastic event that we had.”
The St. Albert Curling Club director gave a big shout out to the movers and shakers of the Alberta Scotties.
“We nailed it and it’s all because of our volunteers, club members and the fabulous community we live in. It doesn’t matter what we put on we always have good support of the community. We also had fabulous sponsors that supported us,” Stephen said. “We couldn’t have done it without any of them.”
Gil Jouan was the money man as vice chair of sponsorship.
“A majority of our sponsors are from the St. Albert area. All the local businesses just jumped right in and we even had some businesses come into our office and asked to be part of it and that was a real plus,” said Jouan, who had a trio of directors under his command pounding the streets for sponsorship. “The chamber of commerce was one of our biggest helpers supporting us and the Gazette too and it brought a lot of attention to our event so we were able to raise and surpass our budget for sponsorship.”
The St. Albert Curling Club vice-president described the response to the Alberta Scotties as “absolutely unreal.”
“Last year it was in Calgary (at the North Curling Club) so we weren’t quite sure how we were going to be as far as tickets sales with a small community here versus Calgary. We planed for about 350-ish give or take and we outsold this place almost every day. We oversold really,” Jouan said. “Everyone stepped up to make this thing number one.”
Nicole Bellamy was the vice chair of administration and finance.
“I had fantastic volunteers. My assistant, Brenda Eger, is a very detailed orientated person. She had a lot of passion for the job. She knew I had a lot of work on my plate as the curling club manager so she was a great assistant for me,” Bellamy said.
A reconnaissance trip to the 2016 Alberta Scotties by the St. Albert committee helped create the template for this year’s provincials.
“Going down to Calgary was beneficial to our team. The North Hill committee sat down with our committee even though they were really busy because it was in the midst of their event they told us what was successful and gave us pointers for our event so that was very instrumental for the success of our event,” Bellamy said of hosting the Alberta Scotties in a curling club setting instead of hockey rink.
“We all sat down and came up with our biggest, hairiest, audacious goals. We just thought out of the box, maybe a little bit of craziness and some silliness, and then we pared it into something that was fun, exciting, athlete centred and fan friendly and as you can see we pulled it off like champions.”