As I sat down to write about this year’s tour there was a great internal struggle to figure out where to start it. One of my recently made bocce buddies suggested I start it where I start all of my stories… In the middle! Thanks, John.
A few things have changed in my life since the last “real tour”. We have learned more rules, started shipping courts across the country, promoted a Wednesday night bocce group, created a website for bocce lovers, imagined and then promoted the largest bocce tournament in Washington State, and a couple hundred other things. We also have made some new friends through the game. Last fall there was a bocce tournament at the Peppermill Casino in Reno, Nevada and rumor had it that several important bocce organizers and players would be in attendance. Armed with nothing but the completely irrational argument of, “I don’t know why I need to go but…”, I asked my wife, “Honey can I fly to Reno this weekend to watch a bocce tournament?” to which she replied, “Sure!”. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it… so, I flew down by myself. No wife, no kids, no dog. I went straight from the airport to my room and settled in. About a minute and a half into “settling in” it occurred to me that I was in a strange place without a game plan. I did what any rational adult in my position would do. I made friends with the mini bar. At 45 years old this is not the kind of thing I do often yet it didn’t take long for us to get acquainted. Having walked through the casino I found myself standing in the midst of a group of total strangers and was slightly intimidated. I decided to go back to the room, my pal “mini”, and a suitcase full of Boccemon hats. One person and one hat at a time I met some great players. I went back to the room twice more over the next hour and eventually handed out 36 hats. One group seemed especially disappointed about not getting hats so I invited them to come play in our Bellingham Bay Bocce Tournament and experience a weekend of bocce - Northwest style. Now fast forwarding to the “beginning” of my story, they really wanted the hats and so our Washington State Bocce Tour 2005 began to take shape...
On Friday the 22nd of April I was meeting with our tournament chief over a plate of sushi when my cell phone got all noisy. Our guests of honor had arrived and were ready to start having fun. Jo Anne, John, Judy, Ron, and David ( names may or may not have been changed ) met us for a day touring Bellingham.
The Washington State Bocce Tour 2005 officially started at the Carolina Street court around cocktail hour on April 22nd. This is the oldest oyster shell bocce court in Bellingham. Home to the Bellingham Bay Bocce Club, and the oldest club member of the US Bocce Federation in Washington State.
The 10’ x 60’ court is located at the corner of Iron and Carolina Streets in Bellingham, Washington. We brought out the chairs, filled the cooler and played well into the night. We had the normal crowd, some abnormal crowd, plus some folks who had never played before. A good time was had by all!
On April 23rd, my wife, some friends, and I put on the largest one-day bocce tournament ever held in Washington State. We had 39 teams with folks coming from as far north as Sand Point, Alaska and as far south as Campo di Bocce, California. Seniors, children, most economic classes were represented. We had a team from Special Olympics and players who have represented the USA in international bocce play. The tournament was held at the Bellingham Sportsplex on FieldTurf with Backyard Bocce 12' x 60' perimeter style courts. This was a fun day for families and friends gathering for the joy of bocce. In the end, a new champion was crowned and the silver fell to the same team that wins it every year. We were able to hand out multiple bocce sets provided by some great names. Perfetta, Sportcraft, and St. Pierre all contributed in some way. Like the California tour ‘02 these synthetic courts played well for a “neighborly tournament”.
After the tournament, we moved to the court in Barkley Village. Boccemon built this 12’ x 76’ oyster court several years ago and this day it hosted Washington’s first ever – international exhibition game between some members of the Italian-Canadian Bocce Club and some representatives of the United States Bocce Federation. Possibly due to the fact that we failed to inform the Canadian team we were playing with a set of rules they were unfamiliar with, the United States snuck in a victory with an awesome closing shot by the President of the United States Bocce Federation, John Ross. The court sits adjacent to a great Thai restaurant, On Rice, and has reasonable lighting for late night play. Bring your own set of bocce balls!
The next phase of the tour required some organization. You may recall from the last tour that the children are not quite as intrigued with bocce as I. Considering this we opted to do the only considerate thing – we called our mothers and asked them to babysit for a couple days, while we continued the tour. Our friend “J” (tournament chief) called his mom, as well, and we were ready to continue. We awoke April 24th and headed to Anacortes where we boarded a Washington State Ferry. The goal was to stand on four islands by sunset. Two of them had bocce courts belonging to friends so arrangements had been made for us to play. Fidalgo Island is where we caught the ferry to San Juan Island. We were met by two vans thanks to Bob’s Taxi and driven out to the middle of the San Juan Valley to the “C’s” home. This 9’ x 80’ court has a clay surface. It is time-consuming to maintain and is often out of commission after heavy rains. The owner simply broadcast flakes of oyster shell on top but knows he should resurface the court if it is going to get much use.
Check out this court feature. Many people play that the back wall is dead. On an 80’ court it is a long walk down the court and back to remove a ball from play that has hit the back wall. No need to walk as the long shot is off the court and sitting in the trough. If the pallina gets knocked out, one plays to the back-center of the trough. It can be a fun touch for a private court. There is an increased tripping potential, so we discourage this design for public or municipal courts.
The view was breathtaking and our hosts were awesome. Our friend John taught us a counting method which seemed to have been invented by an ancient Egyptian auction house. After practicing for about 10 minutes we all mysteriously ended up on teams. He said he learned it at Campo di Bocce but we told him we had far more respect for those folks to believe such slander. Each team won a game and we decided to finish the battle on a smaller island. After picking up some fresh prawns and crab from a local source we headed by boat to Friday Island where we had private housing arranged.
We dropped our stuff in the cabin, waved down a passing boat, and headed over to Crane Island. Our guests seemed to enjoy the boat ride. A friend had graciously offered us the use of their dock for the afternoon as it was convenient to the bocce court on an adjacent property.
As we strolled up through the evergreens and madrona trees, the sun was out, and life was very good… Our cooler and lunch had preceded us so while some were exploring, I went in the house and set to cooking and cleaning the crab, etc. The “rubber match” was played and everybody won. Lunch was awesome. Sonoma-Cutrer, spotted shrimp, fresh crab, and some “this and that”. “Inspiration Alley”, built in the early 1980’s by the Clark family, got me started building bocce courts... The court surface is of limestone fines from a quarry on Orcas Island and isn’t maintained except for during summer BBQ play. It got me hooked although I wouldn’t want the maintenance of this surface.
That Sunday, on the lawn and on the court we shared friendship, community, and ourselves. Some reacquainted with the joys of bocce while others simply reacquainted. We got to share new techniques, real rules, different ideas, and nobody experienced bodily or emotional harm.
On Monday April 25th we said goodbye to this great group and headed back home to continue the tour on our own. Wednesday the 27th we had “Bocce Night” at the Carolina Street court. Next we began preparations for Part Two of the Washington State Bocce Tour 2005 which started again on Saturday the 30th in Seattle, Washington. Having checked in at the Hotel Monaco the previous night we were able to take advantage of an early morning stop at the Pike Place Market to assemble a great picnic. Don’t miss DeLaurenti’s, sponsor of the Festa Seattle Bocce Tournament. Next we headed 30 minutes South on I-5 to the Fircrest courts in Tacoma, Washington.
These three public courts are not ideal. They are set on top of unused tennis courts that the Park department maintenance crew was happy to quit weeding. The playing surface is sand and stuff. Not very smooth but definitely worth a stop. On the way back, check out the Point Defiance Zoo, or theMuseum of Glass.
Next we headed back north toward Seattle to Auburn, Washington. Les Gove Park is home to the largest public bocce facility in Washington state, with four 12’ X 80’ courts. We had fun! Keep a watch on the Joy of Bocce website for tournament dates on these courts, usually held in July. They play well and are easy to find on the way to the Muckleshoot Casino located about 10 minutes away.
May 1st, 2005. Happy May Day! About this point, it was pretty easy to forget that we have two toddlers and live in a place where we wash our own sheets etc., but the familiar jazzy tune of my cell phone ruined that fantasy in a split second. Damn. Seemed like there was time for a couple more courts, so we drove a few blocks from the hotel to Occidental Park in Pioneer Square. These two courts were built with good intentions by the Seattle Parks Department but the surfaces leave much to be desired. They are made from baseball infield material and this day were being enjoyed by some boules (petanque) players. The distributor for Perfetta balls is in West Seattle and they also distribute items for boules enthusiasts. Stop in and see Bede Koregast at Playaboule while you are in Seattle and save yourself some shipping charges.
After loading up friends, neighbors, and kids we headed to the Woodland Park Zoo. There are two lawn bowling (dieing sport/starch) fields and occasionally they let folks bocce there. No such luck today! (update 2012: The West Seattle Bocce Club has adopted these courts and often holds tournaments here. If interested, contact Tom). Back on I-5, we were home in 90 minutes.
May 4th back for Wednesday night bocce at the Boccemon headquarters. The court was great to return to and after playing on so many different surfaces I am prouder than ever of our Raincountry blend.
May 10th all of the experiences of the tour were brought together in one magical night (should have been 3 nights…) again without the kids, at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island.
This place is the “real deal”! Local farm fresh eggs, organic vegetables, and sustainably-harvested wild salmon to serve their guests in their old island inn. The Willows has the tranquility of the San Juans, the cuisine to match Seattle’s finest restaurants, sunsets to die for, and they are the most recent addition to the list of public bocce courts in Washington State.
One of their signature products is reef net caught wild sockeye salmon and is available by mail order. With all of the joys of bocce and my awesome spouse “Boccemom” still by my side, this tour is complete.
We hope that bocce folks who travel the country will start to visit other clubs and maybe meet some people. This is a great way to see an area and even if the Tour idea is more than you can handle make a note so when you come to Seattle next you can enjoy a game or two. Perhaps you are going toAlaska on the ferry from Fairhaven (south Bellingham). Spend a night at the Willows Inn, - play some bocce. Have lunch at On Rice in Barkley Village -play some bocce. Stop at Youngstock's nursery for some fruit and vegetables at the corner of James and Carolina streets. Walk across the street for a game. Get in a game before the afternoon sailing. by checking out balls and a template court at Village Books. Set up the court right outside on the Village Green. Bocce is happening all around us and I personally hope it can be a thread that binds us. Use this game to improve the community around you, where ever you are…
P.S.S. Build a bocce court and surface it with Boccemon’s Rain Country Blend. This too will help solidify the future of Bocce in America.
Tom and Erin McNutt