It is a time-honoured tradition for the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club to invite the mayor to deliver the first bowl of the season.
However it was the first time ever in Chilliwack’s history on Saturday that the mayor had to be gently reminded not to wear high heels on the delicate bowling green.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz wore flats on Saturday morning, and happily launched the 2016 season in bare feet by rolling the ceremonial golden bowl.
Before doing so, she thanked the club, board and members, including Merlin Bunt, for “reviving not only the sport of lawn bowling, but the proud history of the club” in Chilliwack.
The club started up before they had any bowling greens or a facility in Chilliwack.
“Think back to the year 1922,” Gaetz recounted.
That’s when local druggist and MP Harry J. Barber would often invite other local gentlemen to bowl on his front lawn on Westminster Avenue, now called Yale Road, according to coverage by the Chilliwack Progress.
In honour of the storied history of the club being kept alive, Gaetz reminded the crowd that at one time only men were allowed to engage in the sport of lawn bowling. But in 1933, a group of Chilliwack women assembled at city hall to protest their exclusion from the sport.
“From that point on, they were allowed to bowl,” Gaetz noted.
Veronica Merryfield, president of the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club, explained the purpose of the golden orb.
“Opening day has a long tradition in this club dating back to the beginnings of it in 1922,” she said.
“It’s been something that we have wanted to reinstate,” she said about the tradition of inviting the mayor of the day to deliver the first golden bowl of the season.
Dignitaries from several levels of government were in attendance to help the Bowling Club welcome spring and the new season.
Last year they had about 35 members, and they’re looking for new members to check it out.
No experience? No worries.
“We have a coaching program. We’ll take anybody,” the president noted.
Merryfield herself has made it to the provincials in competition even though she’s only been bowling for four years.
So what does it take to be a great bowler?
“It takes dedication. You have to practise, like any sport.”
Merryfield joined the club last year when she moved to Chilliwack and has been enjoying the camaraderie.
“For me it’s the social aspect of getting to meet a lot of nice people. It’s also the competition of participating in an exciting sport.”
Lawn bowling is a great pastime, and it just takes a bit of time to master the curve. The bowls are not thrown straight but rather they curve along the green on the “bias” due to being weighted on one side.
The Opening Day event was also a chance for MLA John Martin to announce funding for the club from the Province of B.C. to get a brand-new roof.
“Had some discussion about some of the challenges that the club was going through,” Martin said. “So I did a little bit of digging and arm twisting, and am happy today to be able to present the club with a cheque for $7,500.”
“Thanks very much, holy cow!” said one of the Bowling Club members.
“Now we’ll be able to get that new roof,” said another.
MP Mark Strahl thanked everyone who keeps the longstanding facility going, and the greens well manicured.
“Lawn bowling keeps people active and keeps people engaged in Chilliwack, and right across the country. Best wishes for the season,” he said.