International champion from Aylesford on mission to save candlepin bowling in Valley


Published on May 17, 2017

In light of recent closures, Jess Bain of Aylesford, a national and international championship bowler, is working to establish a candlepin bowling facility for the Annapolis Valley.

©Kirk Starratt

AYLESFORD, NS - Her passion has carried her to national and international championships and she’s determined to keep candlepin bowling alive in the Annapolis Valley.

 

The bowlers are still there and that’s the gut wrenching part for us.

Jess Bain

Jess Bain of Aylesford said four bowling alleys have shut down in Nova Scotia over the last seven years, including LMK Lanes in Middleton and Fairlanes in New Minas. Bain said she believes the closures weren’t necessarily because of a lack of interest or use but because, from a business perspective, there were more profitable options for the properties.

This means there is no candlepin bowling facility between Digby and Windsor. The only bowling alley in the Valley is a five-pin facility at 14 Wing Greenwood. Bain said a fifth facility, Acadian Lanes in Little Brook, was forced to shut down due to a fire but it has since been bought and the new owner is gearing up to reopen soon.

“Yes, business has been on the decline but where hasn’t it been?” Bain said. “The bowlers are still there and that’s the gut wrenching part for us.”

She considered LMK Lanes a second home and said she cried herself to sleep on more than one occasion after it closed. Her initials were carved in a bathroom stall with those of her “Grade 4 crush” with a heart around it.

She said she finds the situation especially disheartening for seniors and Special Olympians who are “lost” without the sport. Bain has been driving to Windsor to practice and will be participating in a summer league there but recognizes that this isn’t an option for everyone. She said Digby has also been very accommodating to displaced Valley bowlers.

Bain said a friend purchased 12 machines and lanes beds out of 24 from Fairlanes after it closed. The equipment is in storage with the intention of setting it back up in a local, Annapolis Valley facility once the necessary funds are acquired.

To help kick-start this mission, Bain launched a campaign on the website www.GoFundMe.com in January called ‘Help Save Candlepin Bowling in NS’ with the goal of raising $25,000.  Should the effort fall short, she said whatever funds raised would be divvied-up evenly among the remaining bowling centres across the province.

Bain said bowling is a sport that no matter what your age, skill level, ability or disability, you can do it and have a lot of fun. It’s in her blood. She started at age three, almost 30 years ago, when her father began teaching her the nuances of the sport. Bain now holds an annual tournament in his memory.

She said the bowling community is very supportive, like a large family. They have the will to establish a new Valley facility and now have to find a way. Bain has no doubt that it will be a successful venture. She said what is really needed is bowlers with a passion for the sport willing to operate bowling alleys.

Bain said she’s never missed a season and she’s even bowled while nine-months pregnant. She began bowling competitively at age 10, has travelled across Canada competing in five-pin and now competes in international candlepin tournaments in the United States.

Bain is a 2003 senior girls national five-pin champion. This was only the second time a Nova Scotia competitor won the title, the first time since 1984. Bain is a 2015 Ladies Can-Am International champion with the team NS Extreme.

Bain said people always have fun bowling. She urges everyone to get his or her family members together and to give it a try if they have the opportunity. She has wonderful memories of family get-togethers, birthday parties and staff Christmas parties at the bowling alley.