I remember when I was really little, my mom would head out to her Ladies' bonspiels and come home with a prize (usually) and a cool name tag. No sticky pre-fabs proclaiming "Hello, My Name Is..." No, the bonspiels she went to were organized by old-school traditionalists who knew how to do it right. Name tags in the shape of Scottish tams, or flowers, or curling stones, or brooms. All hand-made and worth keeping - which my mom did, for years.
I confess, when I started curling years later, I was tickled to see that at most of the Ladies' bonspiels I attended had the same vision. Cool name tags. It was one of the things that cemented my already-strong loyalty to the game I had come to love.
But it wasn't just the name tags: it was the crazy, fun, creative, often silly mood that surrounded many of the bonspiels I played in, both Ladies' and Mixed.
There are lots of theories about where the term "bonspiel" derives from, including this detailed and entertaining theory from Bill Casselman's Word of the Day. I like to think it's all about a good (bon) game (spiel) - a mixture of French and German words on some long-ago frozen pond in Scotland.
So take a good game, set it on ice, stir in a strong expectation of fun and food, and you have a bonspiel. That's what I saw at the WGF Continental Cup last week (and you can read my blog about that at Around The House, on the Canadian Curling Association site) and that's what I look for when I see those event posters fluttering up and down the big bulletin board outside the change rooms at my club. These are not playdowns, these are not important competitions. These are bonspiels: good games. Good friends. Good fun.
Good name tags, too.