GREENSBORO – The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Greensboro Gorillas that day: the score stood three to zero, with but one more round to play, and then when Fredericks died with the first wheel and Hanowski did the same, a pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
The Greensboro Gorillas did not win the Golden Cheese Award at the Second Annual Curds and Curling Competition at the Highland Center for the Arts on Saturday, Feb. 3. The Greensboro National Curling Team, made up of Jen Lucas, Tanya Thomas, John Schweizer and Rob Brigham and managed by Tom Guare, swept the ice with the Gorillas. Nevertheless, along with hundreds of others, Joann Hanowski, Jim Fredericks and their fellow competitors all enjoyed food, music and a Vermont winter day.
For the uninitiated, curling is a sport born in the Scottish Highlands in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. In traditional Scottish curling, two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice. In Greensboro, instead of polished granite stones, blocks of cheese are slid across the ice (usually Whitney or Alpha Tolman cheeses) that are aimed for the cheese vault.
Curling dates back to the 1500s in Scotland. The oldest curling stone is now in a museum in Stirling, Scotland.
The crowd all ate dishes of Raclette provided courtesy of Jasper Hill Cheese. Raclette is a Swiss dish, also popular in other Alpine countries, based on heating cheese and scraping off the melted part, then typically served with boiled potatoes. Raclette cheese is historically a dish originating from the Canton of Valais in Switzerland. Traditionally, cow herders carried cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from pastures up in the mountains. In the evening, the cheese would be placed next to a campfire for softening, then scraped onto bread.
Roy MacNeil, Alice Perron, Mavis MacNeil, Harrison Martin-O’Brien, and Andrew Koehler provided the music with both vocals and instrumentals. Among the numbers performed were jigs, reels and fiddle tunes. They included such Celtic tunes as “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Irish Washer Woman,” “The Star Below the Garter,” “Devil’s Dream,” and “Another Jig Will Do.”
Alice Perron did some clogging and played accordion as well as her usual guitar. According to Mavis MacNeil “It was a lot of fun to explore the Celtic musical culture. It was a wonderful event. The Highland Center had something for everyone. It was fun to play music for such a great crowd.” The MacNeils are Scottish and especially drawn to the highlands and Celtic music. Mavis MacNeil reports that she and her brother Roy grew up with a father who played the bagpipes when they were younger. His were some of the same tunes they played on Saturday. They all wore tartans and Mavis MacNeil wore the MacNeil tartan.
The Master of Cheese for the event was former Hazen Union principal, David Perrigo. Perrigo remarked that he was excited that last year’s event brought together so many people from distant communities to share sports, food and music of other cultures and was thrilled to see it grow to an even wider community this year and keeping with the Highland Center for the Arts’ mission of broadening and deepening connections with audiences of all ages and walks of life.