This year, Jan Hanke is celebrating her 50th year of curling.
These days, she curls at the Waupaca Curling Club twice a week.
On Monday afternoons, she works with youth, passing on her love of the sport to them.
Hanke admits she was curious about the sport when she was invited to try it in 1964.
She and her husband, Vern, were still relatively new to the community, after moving here in 1962 when he became a probation agent.
A co-worker asked, “Vern, did you ever hear about curling?” Hanke said.
While Vern had heard of curling, it was not popular at the time, she said.
“So, he came here to curl,” Hanke said. “There were only two sheets of ice.”
Two years later, it was her turn to try the sport.
Back then, there was a separate women’s curling club called the Waupaca Lochs.
“We had to pay the men’s club to use the ice,” Hanke said. “Later, we became incorporated as one club and paid dues to one entity.”
As she thought about her early days of curling, Hanke wonders how she was able to bring a 42 1/2 pound rock onto the ice.
“It’s a lot to learn at one the time – the actual execution of getting the rock from one end to the other end was not easy,” she said.
By 1968, her husband was the president of the men’s club. Her role began to grow as well.
Hanke wrote many of the news articles.
She remembers the club as being a particularly strong one in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We started going to bonspiels,” Hanke said. “We got to meet people from other towns, and they’d come here.”
She saw the expansion of the club to four sheets of ice and eventually found her niche in introducing the sport to youth.
In the mid 1990s, lifetime sports became a topic in the physical education curriculum.
“This is how we started getting the kids involved,” Hanke said.
Fifth-grade students received instruction in curling.
Hanke’s records show she registered the first Monday After School League in 1997 with 15 students in it.
The league included Malia Burke, Jake Decker, Dan Edlebeck, Jay Fenton, Heather Goodwin, Alex Groth, Jenny Groth, Mitch Johnson, Kelly Kerrigan, Gerad Patterson, Callie Peotter, Bill Stange, Jim Taylor, Maggie Wolverton and Megan Wood.
Taylor and Wolverton are both back curling with present leagues, Hanke said.
In 1999, the Waupaca Curling Club hosted the Junior National Curling Championship.
“We did a lot of bonspiels. That was the first time the U.S. Curling Association said we should have it,” Hanke said. “They said it was because we had four sheets of ice and were in the middle of the nation.”
After school on Mondays, students in fifth through eighth grade continue to practice and play the game.
“And because of it, we have kids going to nationals,” she said.
The Waupaca Curling Club will host this year’s High School Curling Championships (boys and girls) Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 13-15.
On Sunday, Feb. 16, those in attendance may watch the live televised coverage of Olympic curling, along with the club’s Sunday evening league play.
It will be an opportunity for people to watch the game and ask questions about how it is played, the scoring and the strategy involved.
Open house “Learn to Curl” events are scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Friday, March 7 and from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, March 8.
Both dates will offer the opportunity to receive free instruction and the chance to try curling. In addition, Friday evening is scheduled as a “Curl and Fish Fry” event with the possibility of joining a “team” to play a game and join others at a local restaurant for dinner.
On Saturday, following the afternoon Open House, “Casual Curling” is scheduled as another opportunity for both new and veteran curlers to play a curling match.
Those interested in learning more about curling are welcome to stop by the Curling Club Sunday through Thursday evenings to watch the current leagues in action.
The Wednesday morning league, which is referred to as “Casual Curlers,” is another opportunity to learn more about the game in a relaxed format.
Bonspiels held during the season have brought curlers here from throughout the state.
The Club may be reserved for use by businesses, organizations or other groups for team building events, or as a celebration site with curling instruction provided.
One of the Curling Club’s fundraisers is its Annual Reverse Raffle. This year’s raffle is scheduled on March 1, with the chance to win $3,000.
For additional information, visit the club’s website at www.curlwaupaca.com or its Facebook page. Questions may be directed to email@example.com or through a message or post on Facebook.
During the past 50 years, Hanke has missed just two seasons.
“One season I missed is when I was playing in a game, and I fell down, and I broke my wrist,” she said. “I couldn’t be on the ice anymore until the end of the season.”
Last year, she missed most of the season when she fell on the ice and broke her right arm.
“So now, I’m a stick curler. It gives the sport longevity,” Hanke says of the device which extends from the curler’s hand to the rock while delivering.
She has always loved the challenge of the sport and of her future curling days, says, “I’m hoping that my knee holds out.”