November 21st, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 47
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Local competitor inducted into Horseshoe Hall of Fame
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald Contributor Photo
A beaming Crystal Poty holds up her plaque and award after being inducted into the Alberta Horseshoe Pitchers Association Hall of Fame.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
For many Albertans, horseshoe pitching is a familiar backyard activity played at family gatherings or enjoyed after roasted marshmallows when camping in the backcountry, but for Crystal (Curtis) Poty, the game holds much more significance.

Like her entire family, Crystal loves playing horseshoes, but not only does she have a sincere fondness for the game, but she’s darn good at it too, competing (and succeeding) in tournaments all over Canada and the United States. Most recently, her hard work, skill and passion for the game were recognized with an induction into the Alberta Horseshoe Pitchers Association (AHPA).

Crystal has dozens of medals and awards to her name, including one near and dear to her heart when, in 1993 at 14 years old, she won the provincial title, the Canadian title and the World Junior Girls Horseshoe Pitching Championships. Winning all three titles is called the Triple Crown in horseshoes, a feat that got her on the cover of the 1994 Canadian Horseshoe Pitchers YearBook.

Remarkably, Crystal is only the second Junior girl in Canada to win the Triple Crown.

That year, the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass hung a banner up in Blairmore for eight days saying, “Congratulations Crystal Curtis! Triple Crown Champ.” Her efforts also earned her a special plaque from the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, presented to her by mayor at the time, Frank Capron.

These were just a few of the recognitions that Crystal received during her years playing and competing in horseshoes.

“She was a very good pitcher at a very early age,” says Casey Vander Linden who, along with his wife Eve, mentored and coached Crystal’s beginning in horseshoes.
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As a child, Crystal and her family used to travel every summer for horseshoe tournaments in the provincial, national, world and Western Classic leagues.

“My mom and dad played horseshoes and I was too young at the time to join, so when they would go to tournaments or practice, I would just find an empty pit and practice on my own. When I got old enough, it just kind of went from there,” says Crystal, who had competed since she was nine years old.

Horseshoes became more than just a sport for her. Along with the competitive nature of the game, which she enjoyed, it was all about getting together with her family. And not just her immediate family, but the horseshoe family by extension.

“We travelled across Canada and through most of the United States. It became our summer vacation-slash-tournament. It was a family thing, whether it was your family or other families that you met doing horseshoes. Everybody was always really friendly and helpful,” says Crystal. “As kids, there were a few times we went to tournaments when my parents did not go with us and the group of horseshoe players from Calgary took me, my brother and my sister under their wing when we went to Ontario. It was just amazing how it’s a unique group of people and they really look out for each other.”

Crystal continues to play for fun, but hasn’t competed since her high school days. So it came as quite a surprise when she learned that she was being inducted into the AHPA Hall of Fame.

“I guess I just didn’t expect it because I've been out of horseshoes for so long. But going back to the Horseshoe Club in Calgary brought back a lot of memories. It was neat,” she says. “When you’re playing, you don’t realize what’s happening, but when they were reading out the statistics that night [during the awards ceremony] and said how many consecutive Canadian champions I had won, I thought that was pretty cool.”
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Horseshoe pitching in Alberta peaked in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, and has since sadly dwindled as a sport, decreasing in membership.

Crowsnest Pass even had a 10-court horseshoe club operating out of Pete’s Park in Blairmore, started by the Vander Lindens and David and Marilyn Liska in 1981. Eve was president of the club for 10 years and Casey was on the executive board, also serving as vice-president for a time.

The Vander Lindens have played horseshoes for about 50 years. They vividly remember their first time pitching during the 1967 Canada Day celebrations. Casey is still very involved in the sport today and Eve plays when her arthritis permits. It’s the exercise, the competitiveness and the challenge of the sport that has kept them at it for so long. And, like for Crystal, the chance to travel, meet people and socialize make horseshoes a special activity for them.

Families across generations were involved in the Crowsnest Horseshoe Club, including many youth and young players. At its peak, there were roughly 70 members and in 1982, the club had 102 entries for their annual tournament, the biggest number of entries ever.

Membership declined over the years until, with only a dozen members remaining, the club was forced to cease operating in 1995 after 15 glorious years of operation.

And they were undoubtedly glorious years because Crowsnest Pass had many talented horseshoe players who qualified for tournaments across Canada and the US and achieved many awards. Casey himself is a three-time Provincial Men’s Champion.

Although Crystal still plays horseshoes for fun at family gatherings, the game isn’t as prominent in her life as it once was, but it’s apparent that her fond memories of her horseshoe days have left a lasting imprint on her past, and being inducted into the AHPA Hall of Fame brought back those nostalgic recollections from her childhood.
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November 21st, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 47
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