HUDSON — Columbia County Sons & Daughters of Italy will host the annual Rocky Romano Bocce Tournament, open to all 2-person teams, on Aug. 10 in Hudson.
The Rocky Romano Bocce Tournament promises some serious spinning and trash talk straight out of the old country.
Columbia County Sons & Daughters of Italy is hosting the tourney, which begins with court assignments at 9 a.m., followed by the rolling and ricocheting of bocce balls at 10 a.m. The annual event at 27 Bridge St. in Hudson is in memory of Rocky, an Italian immigrant, longtime local barber and enthusiastic bocce player who was a member of the group’s county chapter.
For many Italian-Americans, bocce is a nostalgic reminder of days gone by and a way to continue celebrating their heritage.
Italian-Americans live the ideals of family, food and religion, mostly in that order. The Hudson chapter of the Sons of Italy dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.
“We’re facing the same kind of problems that many fraternal organizations are, mainly that young people aren’t interested, but bocce is a part of our culture, which still reaches people,” organizers said.
Bocce, pronounced casually as bot-chi, can be traced to ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. The word “bocce” is the plural of the Italian word boccia, which means “bowl” in the sporting sense.
The sport — related to British bowls and French petanque — developed into its current form in Italy and is played throughout the world, particularly where Italians have immigrated. It became popular in the United States at the turn of the 20th century and was played on homemade courts.
This was the case in Hudson, where a group of 50-plus Italian immigrants, including many current members’ parents and grandparents, would gather on Sundays and play in the alley below the former Italian Heritage Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, between Warren and Union streets.
“It was very heated and they argued over a quarter of an inch, always in Italian,” “You could watch them, and as kids we were amazed at how good they were, but there wasn’t even a question that on Sundays, you don’t go down the alley during that time — everyone in the neighborhood knew it,” organizers said.
There can be from two to eight players on a team. Competitors pitch a pallino — a small, brightly colored ball — onto the court before the eight other regulation-sized boccia can be bowled. Players then throw those balls to get nearest to the pallino. The closer they are, the more points they potentially have — unless they’re knocked out of contention with a fly (volo) or other balls.
Pre-registration is $15 or day of event registration $20 per team of two people (mixed teams allowed). Play will be double elimination, with each team competing in at least two games on six courts. Italian ethnic food will be available as well as refreshments and entertainment.
The courts were rebuilt with donations after a landslide caved in a third of the lodge’s property, including the original courts.
Trophies and cash prizes will be awarded to the winners of each elimination. The overall wining team will have their name placed on a permanent plaque, donated by the Romano family, on display at the lodge.