TRAVERSE CITY — The parking lot was full, and the ice was packed.
Around 500 curious attendees came to the curling open house Saturday at Centre ICE.
The 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. event hopes to spur more serious interest in the sport, as the Traverse City Curling Club formed recently and wants to boost attendance.
"We've wanted to see if curling could go — and I think it can," said club organizer Don Piche. "We've had a lot of interest. We even had a lady in a wheelchair here earlier. I think after this, we'll be in good shape."
Piche said about 50 people had already signed up for curling classes, which start May 2 at Centre ICE and cost $25 per person.
With about 60 volunteers in tow, including five other clubs from around the state, the ice was busy with activity throughout the day.
"It's a lot of fun," said Ryan Barnhart, a 22-year-old Kingsley resident. "It's nice to see it make its way to northern Michigan finally."
The facility tentatively has open curling sessions slated as early as May 3, if demand is high enough. Centre ICE director Terry Marchand said it may be longer, however, before the people taking classes can get up to speed enough to play in actual games.
Still, the interest seemed strong.
Interlochen resident Thom Robinson, 43, brought his son Gabriel to Saturday's event.
"I'm from Canada and I saw they had curling here," said Thom Robinson, wearing a Canadian hockey jersey. "So I figured we had to go."
The afternoon also featured matches between the clubs, with the entrants for each game escorted onto the ice by a bagpiper. Clubs from Lewiston, Midland, Detroit, Lansing and Kalamazoo helped out Saturday, offering instruction to beginners in addition to playing in games.
"I just got back from a trip to Scotland and saw curling on a lake there," said Traverse City resident Elizabeth Black, who was learning the sport's basics, "so it's a nice coincidence it's here now."
Anyone interested in classes or open curling sessions can get more information at www.centreice.org or by calling 933-7465.