The Melfort Curling Club’s planning committee is made up of, from left, Kimberly Martin, Regan Ferguson, Curtis DeGooijer, Kerrie DeGooijer, Scott Hermus, Miranda Knudson, Nick Fagnou. Photo courtesy of Melfort Curling Club

It was the first time the new planning committee had ever organized a bonspiel of this kind. It was a big success for the Melfort & District Curling Club, attracting 28 teams with a wide variety of age groups from all across the province. The SynergyAg Farmers and Friends Annual Bonspiel was held earlier this month, raising $25K for the Club’s operation budget, and cementing a long-term relationship with its headline sponsor. This success is an example of the brand the Club is consciously portraying, one that shouts, We are worth investing in AND You should come curl with us – we’re kind of fun!”. The bonspiel hit both of these concepts, um, right on the button.


A brand is the collective impact or lasting impression from all that is seen, heard, or experienced by customers who come into contact with a company and its products and services. In creating a brand, or “branding,” a business is managing the effect that the product or service is having on the customer.


A Bit Different

North East of Saskatoon, and South East of Prince Albert, Melfort is surrounded by rich farmland, lakes and forests. The 6,000 residents have a variety of options to fill up their free time, and that includes curling at the 6-sheet Melfort Curling Club, a community staple for over 110 years.

Unlike many curling clubs, the Club has been independent from the municipality, although that relationship is changing with a recent ask to City Council for funding assistance for major capital upgrades. Like many Clubs, they’ve got an ageing facility in dire need of updates. They decided the infrastructure needed to be improved to keep curling alive for years to come.

They’re on a quest to raise $1.1 million for a multi-year renovation that includes a new ice plant, a new roof and other capital upgrades that will improve efficiency, functionality, and safety – and continue to keep the non-profit self-sustainable. And that’s something they’re very good at. So far they’ve raised over $800,000 in 14 months. And folks are taking note. Curling Canada just announced Melfort as the site of the 2024 Curling Day in Canada Festival.

What also sets them apart is the Board of Directors and planning committee are two separate groups of people. That’s different from many clubs where it’s often the same people doing everything. At the Melfort CC, they try to change it up, if they can. That’s just another big difference in how doing things differently is working wonders for their club.


The Spark that Lit the Fire

A fire needs a spark to get it going. For the Melfort Curling Club, that spark might be traced back to 2018 when Board member Kerrie DeGooijer (she’s now 30) cut her teeth on helping to organize a small part of the 2018 Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts Provincial Play Downs. Dedicated and passionate (read “mad about curling”), DeGooijer and fellow Board members made a long grocery list of what needed fixing. Then they began searching for ways to  fundraise, finding grants to apply for, and looking for out-of-the-box approaches to reach their big pricetag renovation goal.

2022-23: 40 New (Young) Members

And through it all, except for the COVID shutdowns, they curl. They socialized. They had fun – one of the mantras of the brand. Then they told their friends about how much fun it was to “hurry hard” and more people started coming out and signed up. This season they got 40 new members in (mostly) the 25-35 year-old age group. Heck, even their 11-member Board is relatively young with half a dozen 30-somethings’ on it. 

Which is just another in the long list of amazing milestones this Club has recently reached.

Being Social

Even though the SynergyAG Farmers and Friends Annual Bonspiel was the current planning committee’s first bonspiel, they had a good idea of what needed to be done. Since that committee includes only a couple of Board members, and the average age is 30-something, they have a new set of eyes on organizing a bonspiel, a different perspective. DeGooijer, a member of both, takes advantage of the power of social media to bring ideas back to the Board. That includes following over 100 curling clubs on Facebook to see what they’re doing, what they’ve done, and takes note of what works. She’s also an avid follower of the Business of Curling Facebook group and website, .

“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Kerrie insists. “It’s seeing what’s worked for other clubs and adopting their methodology. For this bonspiel, we relied heavily on Chad Kelly from the Whitewood Curling Club. What they do over there is truly amazing. And all we did was sorta copy everything they do…bonspiel speaking!”

The agronomy services manager continues.

“I asked Bobby Ray (Manager of Club Development) from Curling Canada for some ideas. I asked Reddit (r/curling) for ideas. As a club, you don’t need to do what you’ve always done.”

A Perfect Opportunity

A bonspiel was the perfect way for SynergyAG to introduce itself to their target farming audience in the area, many who curl the long Saskatchewan winters away. In October, 2022, the Melfort newcomer announced plans to set up a crop input centre south of the City. With teams coming from all over the province, it was an opportunity they couldn’t refuse. The 6-year old crop production innovator has a retail presence in Govan, Lumsden, Lewvan, Pense, Balcarres, Yorkton, Lajord, Grenfell, St. Brieux, and Provost, AB.,

They might have chosen another way to make some noise, but the large ag businesses in and around Melfort have been competing with each other to contribute to the well being of the Club. Implement dealer Brandt spent $50K on naming rights for the lounge (now called the “Brandt Last Rock Lounge”); grain handler and ag retail giant Viterra spent $25K for the naming rights to the locker rooms. And Bourgault Industries from neighbouring town St. Brieux, bought the naming rights to the building itself, paying $100,000 over 10 years back in September, 2022 for what’s now known as the Bourgault Curling Centre. Those naming rights were announced during the Club’s celebration of 50 years in that building. That featured a sold-out golf tournament and feeding over 300 people in the celebratory banquet.

Fundraising ideas are never in short supply at this Club.

Grocery List of Improvements

The Club has already completed some of their grocery list items, like overhauling their chiller which was done before the start of the 2022-23 season. But with so much more to do, the fundraising and grant applications never end. Earlier this week, they got word of another Federal grant approval, their 5th so far.

A lot of these grants are smaller ones, in the $10k-$100k range. But still! Every little bit counts in our world,” DeGooijen explains. “We are trying to prove to all levels of government, businesses and industry, and individuals and families that we are worth investing in. Our club can continue to organize fun events and keep interest in the sport high – but we need help with capital for infrastructure upgrades.”

With a strong brand in place, the curling club is getting strong results with investors, members, bonspiel participants and grants. 

Webinar – March 8, 2023 at 6:30 EST

What’s in a brand, and where do you begin?

The next webinar will be on March 8th at 4:30 MST to discuss what the Melfort Curling Club has done so far. That includes determining their grocery list, applying for grants and getting them, getting naming sponsors and growing their membership base. It will take place via Zoom on March 8th, 2023 at 6:30 EST. Replays will be available.  Sign up for it here.