A curling rink on Pigeon Lake created to give area seniors a healthy break during COVID-19 has brought the entire community closer together.
"It's goofy how it has just taken off," said Corey Kozack, who along with Darcie Carey saw a need for 'lake curling' and made it happen in a couple of days.
Located next to an established hockey and skating area at the village of Grandview, the rink popped up an idea while the pair were having a beer in Kozack's garage last month.
"We were talking about how hard it has been for seniors to do anything during COVID-19. Then we said, 'Hey let’s build a curling rink," Kozack said.
While the pair had noble ambitions, they knew they would need help as they ventured into uncharted territory.
"We knew zero about curling before we started, so we used Google to get all the information we needed. We learned a lot," said Kozack, adding they also rounded up a few friends to lend a hand.
"It is exactly to regulation; 150 feet long by 15 feet 7 inches wide. The hog lines are in the right spots. And we used food dye to make the rings.”
To create the hacks, Kozack said they cut holes in the ice with a hatchet. "We then placed some microfibre cloth in the hack to prevent people from slipping.”
Eight curling rocks were donated by an elderly area resident. For children or anyone else who struggles with a curling rock’s weight, they have also collected and coloured frozen milk jugs for use.
Kozack, who runs a landscaping and snow removal business, said he bought a portable ice pebbling machine and six brooms and was set to go.
"We pebble the ice at the start of every day of curling. It has been fantastic," he said.
And while the games are not that competitive, it is possible for passersby to keep track of the action.
"One senior created a scoring system using red and green sticks. It's in the snow at one end," said Kozack.
While seniors in their 70s and 80s are enjoying the action, people of all ages have participated, said Kozack, adding they have had at least a dozen curlers out every day since the rink opened.
"This is so enjoyable. It is so nice to see people utilize this," said Kozack, stressing COVID-19 protocols are followed.
"Players are keeping their distance on the ice. All of the benches are seven feet apart. And we are using hand sanitizer," he said.
After the day of curling has finished, everything on the rink - from the brooms to the rocks - is cleaned and returned to Kozack's nearby garage for nightly storage.
The area at the south end of the lake, which also features a fire pit, skating rink, ice fishing and snow sledding, has been a popular winter gathering spot for decades.
And while it’s brand-new, the Pigeon Lake curling rink may have already inspired others to follow a similar path.
"'Last week, this guy comes racing up on a quad, stops and asks what we used to make the rings, and I said 'food colouring'. He didn't say anything else and then he quickly took off again," Kozack said.
While a neighbouring rink would be a bonus, there is no doubt the inaugural Pigeon Lake curling rink has already had a positive impact.
Kozack, who has lived at Grandview with his wife and daughter for three years, said the popular icy creation has increased his circle of friends.
"The more people we get to know the better we are."