As the gull-wing door of my friend’s Tesla raised to reveal the Wiarton Curling Club sign shining like a beacon through the night, I felt like I was heading back to the future. Less than a year earlier, we had arrived on a cold, February morning to compete in the Wiarton Bongspiel, an annual curling event created by Ted Ratcliffe and Grant Nicholson in 2018, the year of legalization, to celebrate cannabis culture while raising awareness and a little money for the curling club.
Three years earlier, I had the pleasure of being the official Rrampt sponsored judge in the Bongspiel Fall Fair, the precursor to the Nugswap, a side piece to the official event where local growers shared some of their favourite homegrown in a friendly competition.
This year, the Nugswap became a little more formal with an evening of its own. About 75 people gathered in the club to talk Sex Panther and Bubble Berry, vibe to music provided by The Vaudevillian, while the growers had their strains tested by Potency Buds from Toronto.
The highest strain of the evening was Crescendo, boasting an impressive 30.4%. Growers also had the opportunity to check out some exhibitions from Bios Nutrients and Liquid Glass. While they did so, the “Masters of Bud Division” sorted almost 1 1/2 pounds of cannabis into 330 samplers of 1.7g each.
These samples were then divided into groups of 10 to be redistributed to the growers for the first round of judging done by peer testing. The finalists from these heats then go to the head judges that include a cannabis sommelier, a local cannabis aficionado, and Tara and Trevor Mackenzie. The winning strain will be announced at the Bongspiel on February 17th. Although the Bongspiel is sold out, spectators are always welcome.
But it doesn’t end there. In May, Ted and his team are planning a gathering for local and aspiring growers to learn, collaborate, share knowledge and connect. This is encouraging as the future of cannabis in Ontario continues to change.
With another round of law adjustments, the chains are going to get even larger which might mean growing at home will continue to decrease. Even now, despite it being legal to grow up to 4 plants, fewer people than ever are doing it. Many who used to grow now prefer the convenience of buying pre-rolls from legal institutions, a foreign idea to many of the old growers.
But Grey Bruce seems to have a bright future in the homegrown arena thanks to events like the Bongspiel and the Nugswap. As the evening ended, Ted stood up and announced that 22 strains had been entered, showcasing the diverse and vibrant homegrown community we have. And after all the bills had been paid for the evening, there was a prophetic amount left to be given to the curling club: $420 to be exact. An encouraging sign for the future.
“To everyone who joined us at Nugswap 2024, your passion, dedication, and love for homegrown cannabis created an atmosphere of unity and joy that we’ll carry forward. Until then, may your gardens flourish, your buds be bountiful, and your spirits high!” – The Nugswap Team
Words and photos by John Fearnall