Nackawic Curling Club: A half-century of growth

·3 min read

In 1971, one year after the St. Anne Nackawic Pulp and Paper Mill opened to entrench the Community on the Bend as an important forestry centre, the Nackawic Curling Club opened in the shadow of the mill to provide the growing town with a new sport and recreation option.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, the club's supporters and leaders gathered to celebrate its 50th anniversary at the annual Past President's Dinner.

Current club president Robert Kitchen said the club's first half-century provided plenty of reason to celebrate. The Nackawic Curling Club began in a small curling rink next to the mill in 1971, said Kitchen.

The current building, just up the road from the mill entrance, opened in 1982, offering a large hall, kitchen and other resources for public gatherings in addition to curling ice.

Over the years, Kitchen said, the club stayed atop maintenance needs and structural improvements to ensure the sport grew in Nackawic.

Cecile Marshall, wife of the late Lloyd Marshall, Nackawic Curling Club's first president, attended Saturday's dinner as a special guest.

The club's first president helps tie the club's history to the opening of the mill, which, in one way or another, served as the town's economic force for the past half-century.

Cecile, a retired school teacher said she and her husband, an engineer, moved to Nackawic to help get the mill up and running. She said they didn't reside in Nackawic long, moving on to other communities opening new mills in that era.

"We left in '72," she said.

While the Marshalls' stay in Nackawic proved short-lived, Lloyd was a curling pioneer in the community.

Kitchen said it felt great to welcome Cecile to the 2021 past-presidents dinner, adding it's great to see the curling club continue to thrive 50 years later.

He said activities at the curling club, like almost everything, took a massive hit during the past year and a half of COVID restrictions. Still, he added, the club used the COVID downtime and some available COVID-related funds to improve the building and the ice plant.

Kitchen said the club is anxious to throw the first rock in a new season as soon as a back-ordered part for the compressor arrives to get the ice plant running.

Nackawic Curling Club director of Little Rocks and Juniors Sam Gagnon said everyone, including the young curlers, is "ready to go" for another season.

She said the club hopes to see the needed compressor part arrive in the next three weeks, with the ice going in shortly after.

Gagnon said curling proved a popular sport for Nackawic-area youth.

"We get more and more kids every year," she said.

She estimated close to 30 children and youth are members of the Little Rock program, 12 years old and under, or Junior program, youth 12 to 21.

Gagnon said COVID limited the number of Little Rock or Junior events last year, but the club tried to keep the young curlers active through funspiels and other events.

"We stuck between Fredericton and Woodstock due to COVID," she said.

Gagnon said children could start at any age, but some picked up their first rock as early as four or five years. She said getting children involved early helps generate future adult members for the Nackawic Curling Club.

Gagnon said some children drift away from curling when they hit middle or high school as other sports capture their interest. Still, she added, many of them return to curling at some point.

The curling enthusiasm of young and adult curlers kept the Nackawic Curling Club growing and prospering for half a century. Kitchen, Gagnon and others expect that to continue well into the future.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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