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Lawn bowling, yes lawn bowling, attracts Calgary homos

Queer league has saved club from declining participation

GOOD TIMES. Lawn bowling is a hit with Calgary gays, according to Apollo Friends in Sport, the city's primary queer sports organization. Credit: (Kevin Allen photo)

During the weeks of summer in Calgary, a queer lawn bowling league has become the decided choice for those who like a little leisure with their sport.

Coordinated by Apollo Friends in Sport, Calgary’s primary queer sporting organization, the lawn bowling league has become their most popular summer activity on offer. Soon to be wrapping up its fifth season, the league saw record attendance in 2008.

Mark Shaver has been with the league since its inception and is now one its organizers. “It’s nice to get out in the summer, and the league is not competitive — just fun,” he says.

A lawn bowling evening is a well-structured affair, with participants moving through the event with a sauntering grace: dinner at 6, the first game at 7, second game at 8, gone by 9.

Surprisingly, dinner turned out to be far ritzier than the $5 BBQ described in Apollo’s summer newsletter. Cooked by a volunteer team of lawn bowlers every week, this week’s menu (coordinated by a former restaurateur) included: a summer pasta, lamb on a basil salad, and seasonal fruit with biscuit and cream for dessert — all for $5! Apparently the friendly competition extends to the cooking more than the sport.

One of the cooking team, lawn bowler Evelyn Grant says it’s a fabulous way to spend a summer evening. She laughs as her bowl does an unexpected curl into another team’s lane.

Drop-in participation is encouraged with teams forming new combinations every week. Newbies are given a five-minute tutorial before the game starts by organizer Phil Ivers, whom Grant comically describes as the Svengali of the lawn bowling world.

Ivers explains the game’s strategy, which is deceptively simple — get your bowls closest to the little white ball, called a jack, at the opposite end of the green. The trick is that the bowls are weighted and do not bowl true, requiring bowlers to plot where to use their curl for maximum benefit. Ivers teaches advanced students how to bowl while simultaneously holding their beverage in their non-bowling hand.

The gay lawn bowling league has turned out to be tonic for the sport in general. It’s a sport that attracts an older demographic, and most clubs in Calgary have been facing declining participation. However, Apollo has rejuvenated the Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club where it plays, located in one of the city’s oldest communities. Not only have Tuesday nights become busy, but the weekly to-do has inspired locals to form leagues of their own on other evenings.