"It's like an explosion," says Nina Edbom-Kehler, coordinator of the Altona and Area Family Resource Centre. 

"It goes well with 'puzzle' and it's fun to say!"

The title was a perfect fit for the Centre's first jigsaw puzzle competition on April 28th.  

She had no idea how popular jigsaw puzzling is in the area.

"They were hardcore, asking me to bring sorting trays, and I had no idea, right? We had 10 competitive teams, and it was interesting to walk around and see the strategy. Some of them were 'let's just go', and then they were just randomly putting pieces together; some were like, 'the edges first'; some were like, 'OK, all the colors'. It was insane!"

People were even calling the Centre ahead of the contest to get insight that would give them an edge in the contest.
"I was getting people calling, saying, 'what's the puzzle?' And I'm like, I'm not telling you. But I wrapped them all. So, when they came into the room, there were 10 tables set up with a present on them. And they're like, seriously, Nina?  And I'm like, I know you love me right now. And then it was like - ready, set, go! - and there is wrapping paper flying, and then people are like, there's plastic! I got to get through the plastic! It was pretty intense."

Edbom-Kehler was pleased with the turnout. 

"We had 10 competitive teams, which I thought was really good, because I didn't realize that when we were saying we needed 10 tables to put in the space, and have proper lighting and that. We had also advertised you could have a non-competitive team. Those were supposed to have a child in them, someone kind of under 10, or a group of children that could compete. We had two of those teams, as well. So, I'm thinking with that, and our volunteers, we probably had 80 to 100 people in the room. It was pretty awesome!"

The puzzles used were high-end, including a few with 1000 pieces. Even die-hards were unable to assemble 1000 pieces in two hours. In the end, those that tried were judged on the numbers of pieces remaining. Lowest number wins, like golf. The winner counted 441 pieces, the runner-up 443 pieces. 

"It was crazy! Just excitement!" said Edbom-Kehler.

The winners took home a 'lovely' trophy.

"It has puzzles, and that on it. Ine of our board members decorated it up. She did a great job! W are hoping to have names on it, so you have bragging rights. That was a big deal in this crowd, to have bragging rights. They went home with a puzzle and Chamber Bucks gift card, donated by Keystone Kat."

In the end it was a simple event that ran very well said Edbom-Kehler.

"We put out a little bit of survey, just so the people there could give us feedback, and this feedback has been great. Everybody just loved coming to puzzle with their friends. A little bit of banter between tables was pretty interesting to watch. The community came together, we had a great rainbow auction table. It was really funny. We had 12 different packages, and I think the doors opened at 6:30. By 6:45 we were out of tickets. So, we sold 1500 tickets in like 15 minutes. We have some ideas on improvements for next year. Yeah, we're pretty excited about it. So many people even said you should do it more than once a year and I'm like, whoa back. Whoa back."

Competitors took a break at the one-hour mark to enjoy juice and cookies in the shape of puzzles.

While most of the Centre's support comes from community donations and grants, they try to hold at least one fundraiser each year. This one raised between $800 and $1000.

Edbom-Kehler says they hope to host another competition in January 2024 on National Puzzle Day.