It started out simply as a way for the Souris Curling Club to make money quickly and evolved into a long-running community event. With the Souris Curling Club’s Survivor Bonspiel celebrating twenty years, a long-time curling club volunteer and one of the original members of the committee Jim Strath says it’s still going strong. “We are all pleased that Survivor is still a very popular event to attend and for people to come out and enjoy. When we first started holding this bonspiel, the rink wasn’t quite finished and frankly, we needed cash.”
With the first ever Survivor Spiel attracting 144 curling teams to the Souris Community Complex, it was touted as “the largest indoor curling bonspiel in the world under one roof”. For the event, the Complex was entirely converted into a curling club with ten sheets of ice available and events for Masters, Senior Women, Women, Men, Bantams, Junior and Mixed curling. The name Survivor came up by one of the volunteers Carmen Tufts, and stuck. “Oh, like Survivor, the TV show’ and that was it. We liked it.”
Survivor has now become known as a fun way to relax and visit with those in the community, but as Strath added, people came from all over. “We’ve had people come from all over Manitoba, including Winnipeg. Lots of people come home from Calgary to take part and they usually bring a few friends and we’ve even had people from the U.S. and one time we had curlers from Europe. It’s a very regional event and popular all over.”
Each Survivor has a theme and people are eager to discover what that theme is every year and many of them dress up for the part. In 2000 it was the Y2K theme and others have followed including Elvis, Mardi Gras, and Rock N Roll - to name a few. This year during the week of March 28 to April 1, the theme is the 1970s – with peace, love and rock n roll. The committee expects a few hippies hanging out.
While moneymaking was the original goal, no one could have imagined what Survivor would mean to Souris and the surrounding area. “It’s a successful event but when you look at what the Club has accomplished with the money raised, it’s pretty amazing,” said Strath. The event has realized over $1.46 million in gross receipts over the years with almost all of the $939,000 in event expenses spent directly in Souris. This has left the organizers with over $500,000 in funds raised. In terms of an economic driver for the community, the event is a huge success and $176,000 has been put back into the facility in a number of ways. Another benefit has been in the opportunity for local organizations to be part of the fundraising such as organizing daily lunches and suppers, a lounge as well as evening dances with live bands. “I don’t think there are many local groups that haven’t benefitted from Survivor,” said Strath.
Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson added. “What has the Survivor Bonspiel meant to Souris? We see 120 plus curling teams in town, some years as many as 144. When they’re not curling, they’re wandering through town checking shops, restaurants, and things they can come back in the summer to do. The ‘Spiel gets very good press coverage and has become the place to be for those curling fans and players during Spring break. It most certainly has kept the Souris Curling Club alive and vibrant. It remains a success because of the outstanding volunteers who collect prizes and donations, help icemaker Colin Dunbar get 10 sheets of ice ready, and serve delicious meals throughout. I most definitely don’t want to forget the entertainment and the annual theme that gets many excited, myself included.”
So what is the future of Survivor? While a lot might depend on the ability for the volunteer committee to keep up the energy involved in planning such a large event, they do have it down to a science according to Strath. “We have a template to follow and everyone knows his or her job so it’s busy but we know what we’re doing so it’s not too bad. As far as the future, we have a succession plan in the works so I think it’ll be ok. I don’t think you could start over from scratch but if they follow our template Survivor should carry on for some time to come. I hope so.”