BOONVILLE — Never! Die! Hard!
Members of the Adirondack Central School Future Farmers of America are learning not to lose their "handle" while making sure they have plenty of "anti-freeze" when crossing the "hog line," but not before reading the ice as they gather at the back of the house for their future "playdown."
The terms have nothing to do with pitch fork handles, frozen-up tractors, swine — or anything else on the farm for that matter. But it has plenty to do with "Redneck Curling."
Students will host their first curling event to be held at the sixth annual Boonville Snow Festival II at the Oneida County Fairgrounds Feb. 10-12. First FFA members are gaining knowledge of the sport with medieval Scottish roots, studying the rules and getting acquainted with all the lingo.
Even though it is an event in the Olympic Games, seniors Darien Sasenbury and Matthew Chrysler admit they know little-to-nothing about the winter sport, including how to keep score, but plan of having lots of fun anyway.
"I just went online today to try and research some of the rules," Chrysler said.
"There’s a little more to it than you might think," Sasenbury laughed.
Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area, much like shuffleboard. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called "rocks," across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game. Points are scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of 10 or eight ends.
FFA Advisor Heather Sweeney said her group was approached by Linda Bourgeois, president of the Boonville Snow Festival executive committee, about offering a new activity at this year’s festival. Sweeney said Redneck Curling was all Bourgeois’ idea, including the use of Surge milking machines as "stones."
"Linda said they were trying to expand the offerings during the Snow Festival, especially for kids, if they got tired of the races or just wanted to do something different," Sweeney said. "She had an idea to use Surge milk cans, and we got the Yager family here in Boonville, who found some cans in their barn, and they donated them to us for the game. We already have three of them ready to go."
Right now students are just keeping their fingers crossed for snow and cold temperatures, a combination needed for them to build a rink. The festival had originally been scheduled for Jan. 27-29, but was postponed to February due to a lack of white stuff. February events will include the annual parade and fireworks, the Northern New York Vintage Snow Sled Racers, the Eastern Pro Tour, "Outlaw" snowmobiles and sled dog demonstrations. East Coast SnowCross events are still planned for the originally scheduled weekend — Jan. 28-29.
"As long as there’s an ice oval and racing is happening that weekend, our event will be a go," Sweeney said.
Redneck Curling won’t be a tournament, although Superintendent of Schools David E. Hubman has already mentioned he is forming his own team, Sweeney said.
"It will be more of a ‘Here it is, try it,’ kind of thing," the FFA advisor said. "We’re actually still learning about curling itself."
But FFA members said they are hoping to pull their own team together. Chrysler, who serves as chapter president, said the event is a good way to show the community what the FFA does and how the organization gets involved.
"We’re promoting where the agriculture program was before — where we came from — and the new direction we are going," Chrysler said. "We’re doing more, we’re going out for new competitions...we’re getting the agriculture program in the direction it needs to go for the future of the school."
"This is definitely a new way to get us out into the community," Sweeney added. "We’ll even be selling hot apple cider as part of our booth or area at the festival."
Some FFA members will be juggling their time between the Snow Festival and a district competition to be held at Vernon-Verona Sherrill High School that weekend, Sweeney said.
Meanwhile, the chapter is preparing contests and trying to figure out how to weigh down the tanks. Empty without a cover, each weighs between 8-10 pounds. But in the sport of curling, stones can be up to 44 pounds, or at least 25 pounds at the junior level. "We’re making them as heavy as a curling stone, so maybe we’ll have to fill them with water and freeze them somehow," Chrysler quipped.