Dave Phillips was 16 when he aimed his first curling rock at the ice bull’s-eye.
Phillips has attended the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship ever since 1988 and this year, the 73-year-old is volunteering as a timing supervisor at the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer.
“From where I’m at, I can see all the games going on. We also bought our tickets so when we’re not on duty volunteering, we can go and sit down and watch the games,” said Phillips, of Red Deer, who will be cheering with his wife Halga, 71, another Scotties volunteer.
“It’s in my blood. I’ll be there at 7:30 in the morning and leaving around 11 at night.”
Mandy Carroll, tournament office and marketing administrator, said the Phillips are among 515 volunteers involved in the championship at Westerner Park that runs from Feb. 18 to 26.
Only six weeks after the call went out for volunteers last summer, the positions were filled. Those out of luck added their names to a waiting list in case people dropped out.
Red Deer hosted its first Scotties in 2004 and many people who volunteered for that tournament are back, Carroll said.
“They have those memories that are pretty fresh because it was only eight years ago. They just really want to be a part of it.”
Most of the volunteers are from Central Alberta, but a few will be coming in from across the country.
Volunteers are needed to sell programs, run security, officiate at the games, serve at the HeartStop lounge, drive curlers back and forth to the Centrium, and more.
Games will be played simultaneously on four rinks, with a total of 12 games played almost every day.
Phillips said the tournament is captivating when viewed live from the stands.
“To come out and watch four games go on at once, to see how it’s done, the shots these people make, is pretty fantastic at times.”
And the women on the ice are known for their finesse, he said.
“There is some heavy take-outs, mind you, the ladies can throw the rock just as hard as some of the men can,” Phillips said.
Scotties volunteer Myrna Schmidt, 69, of Red Deer, said long winters in Fort Nelson, B.C., made a curler out of her.
She’s been a fan ever since.
“I know a lot of people think watching curling is worse than watching paint dry. It’s like any other sport. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t,” said Schmidt who helped promote the upcoming tournament at local malls and stores where the Tournament of Hearts trophy was sometimes on display.
She will also be selling programs at the tournament, keeping one eye on the rinks and one eye on customers.
“It’s called multi-tasking,” she said with a laugh.
First-time Scotties volunteer Brittany Baker, 24, said getting involved in the tournament has given her a sense of community.
She realized how far it reached when she attended a recent volunteer rally.
“When everybody comes together for a good cause, it’s kind of overwhelming and amazing at the same time,” said Baker, who is the volunteer director of bar services at the HeartStop lounge.
“I think it’s going to be a great place for people across the country to meet and have a good time,” she said about the lounge that will fill the entire Parkland Pavilion at Westerner Park.
“We have a capacity of 2,800 people. The bar is about 54 feet long, so it’s pretty massive.”
Draws will be shown on big screens, along with daily entertainment and room to dance. Meet and greets with players will also be held.
The Phillips, who go to four to five curling events each year, said they look forward to meeting up with friends from New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia who regularly attend the Scotties tournament.
Dave Phillips will also be working on expanding his curling pin collection that includes over 7,600 pins.
“They are hanging on my wall in the basement. I have them framed, most of them, there’s a few I’m still working on.”
Loads of about 52 different pins, mostly from sponsors, will be traded at the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Phillips said the couple have picked up their volunteer uniforms and it’s at the point “where we want to get going.”
Carroll said excitement is spreading through Red Deer — she can feel it.
“We take over the Centrium on Sunday to start putting the ice in.”