VIRDEN -- This year, the Scotties ice stretches out under the bright lights and smooth red seats of Virden's ambitious Tundra Oil and Gas Place.
It wasn't like this back in 1986, when Darcy Robertson and her sister, Barb Spencer, won their first provincial women's curling championship in the province's self-declared oil capital.
That time, they threw their rocks in the cosy old Virden Curling Club building that stands next to the shiny new arena, the 50-year-old curling rink that the town of about 3,200 people is hoping to replace.
'I'm blessed to be able to come back so many times and enjoy the game as much I do still and be able to play at this level... I just think it's in my blood'
"It was tiny in there, small little viewing area, and small little change room downstairs," Robertson recalled Wednesday, back in the same town where her Scotties career began.
She was Darcy Kirkness, back then, fresh off skipping to a Canadian junior championship win.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Robertson. "We were first year in the ladies' provincials and trying our best. We were playing so well as a team and it just seemed like things were going our way."
Twenty-eight years later, the event has changed a lot -- playing in the "beautiful" Tundra Oil and Gas Place, Robertson agreed, makes it "a little more special" than the old host clubs -- but the sisters' success has kept pace.
They are Scotties fixtures now, with years of appearances both curling together, as they did most recently between 2009 and 2011, or skipping their own rinks.
This time, Spencer's team is seeded second, completed by her daughter Katie Spencer at third, second Jenna Loder and Raunora Westcott at lead.
Robertson is skipping the fourth-seed team, which is rounded out by third Tracy Lavery, second Vanessa Foster (who used to curl alongside Robertson in Spencer's rink) and lead Michelle Kruk, a young addition.
"We have tons of fun together," Robertson said of her foursome.
There is a major milestone ahead: after beating Dauphin's Lisa Menard 6-2 in her first game on Wednesday afternoon, Spencer sat at 94 Scotties wins, one shy of Cathy Overton-Clapham's record of 95 and with six more round-robin games to go.
At press time, she was down 5-4 to Brandon skip Kelsey Russill after four ends in the bonspiel's fourth draw.
Meanwhile Robertson, who took a few more years than Spencer away from competitive curling to raise a family, sits sixth in the all-time winners list with 84 victories in the provincial tournament.
Spencer and Robertson similarly sit second and sixth in all-time games played at the Manitoba Scotties.
Winnipeg skip Janet Harvey, who is also in this year's Scotties, has played the most games at the provincial championship with 140.
"Curling has been an awesome sport for us and our family," Robertson said. "I'm blessed to be able to come back so many times, and enjoy the game as much I do still and be able to play at this level... I just think it's in my blood."