Before politics, Pete Festersen was swept up by curling -
Published Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:47 pm
Before politics, Pete Festersen was swept up by curling

The man who is arguably Omaha's most well-known curler isn't exactly known for, well, being a curler.

You probably know him as the city council president, as the one-time Democratic challenger for Rep. Lee Terry's seat in Congress, or as a regular at Dundee's Blue Line Coffee.

But know this: Pete Festersen is also something of a curling champion.

He started young. He figures he was 5 or 6 years old when his parents first took him to the ice and started teaching him how to sweep and throw stones.

It was a family event; Paul and Sigrid Festersen had started curling as a young couple and introduced Pete and his sisters, Anneliese and Else, to the sport. For a while, there was a Festersen family team.

By the late 1980s, when Pete was attending Central High School, he was busy training with his state-champion soccer team. In the summer, he raced sailboats.

But in the off-season, he returned to the ice. And by 1987, he was very good.

That year, he and his team won the junior state and regional competitions. They did the same the following year. And again, and again, in 1989 and 1990.

The team peaked with a fourth-place finish at nationals. That year, 1988, Festersen and his buddies seriously considered entering the Olympic Trials. They decided against it, figuring they had a better shot at nationals.

Festersen shrugs off his missed opportunity for Olympic glory.

“I wish we would have given that a try,” he said. “But nationals was probably our best shot that year.”

When he left Omaha for college, Festersen gave up competitive curling. Though his mother remained a stronghold in the Omaha curling community (she still plays, every Sunday), Festersen's political career left him with little time for the sport.

These days, he said, he gets on the ice occasionally for a tournament. Mostly, however, he prefers music (he plays drums and piano), sailing and something called ice boating, which involves sailboats on ice skates flying across frozen lakes at up to 40 miles per hour.

He'll tune in this month to watch the top U.S. curlers compete in the Sochi Winter Games, and he'll look for familiar faces. Two of the women on the U.S. team were on the junior circuit at the same time Festersen's team was making its streak at nationals.

Festersen said he's sure the Olympic coverage will spark Omahans' interest in curling, just as it does every four years.

After that, the interest tends to fade and the sport again flies under the radar, a bit like Festersen's former life as a curler.

It seems that even at the height of his career, curling was a bit of a well-kept secret.

Did it bring him at least fame in the halls of Central? Did it make him seem cool?

Festersen laughed.

“I think most people just didn't know about it,” he said.

Contact the writer: Erin Golden    |   402-444-1543    |  

Erin covers the Omaha City Council and the Mayor's Office.

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