Less than two years after a devastating fire the Norfolk Curling Club will reopen this Sunday.
The town of Norfolk and cold weather are synonymous. Banners hang from light posts in the center of town reading, “Norfolk: Icebox of Connecticut." It’s a nickname that residents of the coldest and snowiest town in the state have come to embrace.
The town is home to one of only two curling clubs in Connecticut. It’s one of a few things that make the town unique and it’s something residents say they love having in their backyard.
On a predictably cold December night in 2011, two arsonists went on a crime spree through town. Kyle Majewski and Matthew Carey are convicted of setting two fires in Norfolk, one of which destroyed the Norfolk Curling Club.
Jon Barbagallo has been curling in Norfolk since he was 13 years old. He’s also a volunteer firefight in town. Barbagallo was putting out hotspots at a house fire in North Norfolk on Dec. 18, 2011 when he heard from the Norfolk Resident Trooper about a fire on Gulf Drive.
“I was one of the first ones to get here,” he said. “Once we were coming up on the hill and could see the glow in the sky, you knew it wasn’t good.”
The club was established in 1956 and the old wooden structure was vulnerable to fire. Barbagallo said he always had a plan for how he would fight a fire there if one were to break out, but even the best-laid plan wasn't enough.
“I never envisioned it would be so complete by the time we got here.”
The fire was so intense the 42-pound granite curling stones split from the heat of the blaze.
“Poking our heads in the back of the ice shed you could hear them cracking. There wasn’t much to save,” Barbagallo recalled.
After the fire was extinguished, there was virtually nothing left. All 32 stones were destroyed, as were the ice shed and the main building. Decades of memories were reduced to a pile of ash.
Nearly two years later, and after thousands of hours of work, the Norfolk Curling Club is almost ready for its rebirth. The bar is stocked, the fireplace is ready and so is the ice. This Sunday, curling will return to Norfolk after a 23-month absence.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement and awe,” club president Mary Fanette said.
Fanette is a relative newcomer to the Norfolk curling community. For years she was a “weekender,” commuting from New York City to her Litchfield County home as a getaway on her days off. In 2005, shortly after retiring to Norfolk, she won a club membership at a silent auction for the Norfolk Public Library.
Fanette says she was welcomed into the community and for the last four years has served as president during some of the most trying times.
“We’re looking forward to being here and having some great times and good curling,” Fanette said.
Club members were the driving force behind rebuilding the facility, but they acknowledge that support from other Norfolk residents and the curling community was a huge help.
“Basically fundraising started that night at the fire and we still need more,” Barbagallo said. “It’s been an exhausting effort… thousands and thousands of man hours.”
While missing the entire curling season last year was a disappointment, getting back open in time for the Sochi Olympics was critical.
“It’s a huge time for us,” Fanette said, “We get a lot of attention and we do get new members during that time and we need to be ready for it.”
The Norfolk Curling Club will have an open house on Sunday, Nov. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend.