Brief History of the Association between the Russell Curling Club and the Russell Agricultural Society
(as told by James Sullivan & written by Mary Chartrand, July22, 2015)
In 1962, Jim Sullivan, curler and farmer, was the President of the Russell Curling Club when the club was located on Main Street in a building that was no longer fit to curl in. With 25 members in attendance (almost all their members at the time), they were faced with a decision to either close down, join the Metcalfe Curling Club or build a new facility of their own. As the vote to build a new facility was tied, President Sullivan was left to make the deciding vote. The pressure was immense for him to make “the right decision”. He chose to build.
It just so happens that around that very time, there was a government grant available to agricultural societies for the purpose of erecting new buildings. The Russell Agricultural Society wishing to take advantage of this grant to build a new exhibition hall for their fall fair on property they owned on Concession Street, approached the Russell Curling Club offering them a portion of that grant money to erect a new shared facility. As the Russell Curling Club needed a new home, this offer was appreciated and taken advantage of, giving the local curlers a new facility to call home over the winter while providing a clean, safe place to showcase the agricultural and rural community’s skills on the land and in the home. To seal the deal, a legal agreement was drafted, basically allowing the Russell Agricultural Society to have use of the facility for 25 days of the year, while the curlers had a new facility they did not have to pay property taxes on since agricultural societies were, and continue to be, exempt from such taxes.
In 1963, construction began on a Quonset hut type building. 25% of the donated labour came from men who were curlers and had no association with the agricultural society; 75% of the remaining labour came from the farmers, many of whom were also curlers. Despite the fact the use of the building was primarily for the curlers, those farmers who were not curlers, also helped to build because they were looking forward to having a building to use during the fall fair. The sense of community was very much alive; this project was a project that benefitted everyone, and neighbours came together, curlers or not, to see this project through. A ways and means committee was struck to deal with the finances and although the labour was free and fill was donated by Lloyd Griffith, debt was inevitable as a result of building supply costs. The curling club’s portion of the debt was $7,000. Some of the farmers went so far as to mortgage their farms to pay down what, at the time, was a huge debt on the new construction, a debt the curling club proudly cleared within two years. The first couple of seasons, curlers played on natural ice but before they started their third season at the new location, the Russell Curling Club invested
$10,000 in an artificial ice plant.
In 1979, most curling club facilities were condemned except the Maxville and Eastview curling clubs. Ontario’s Lottario offered affected clubs grants that would pay for up to 75% of the cost of a replacement facility, which of course the Russell Curling Club took advantage of and is now the south half of the current facility. As membership grew, the facility underwent an expansion in 2011 to provide an additional two sheets of ice, along with a boardroom and a much larger hall with better bar facilities. A donation by the Russell Agricultural Society of additional land and $30,000 was made to help towards a larger and improved curling facility. In return for the sizeable donation, The Russell Agricultural Society was granted an office and two storage rooms as part of the new construction.
The community of Russell continues to enjoy curling in a prime facility with some of the finest ice around thanks to the many volunteers who offer their time and skills to make the Russell Curling Club a fun place to make new friends while enjoying a sport.