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Bocce court opens at park

POSTED: June 13, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Chelsea Thomas/

Dawsonville resident Joe Hirsch, right, tosses a ball at the new bocce court at Veterans Memorial Park. Cameron Baker, 12, left, and her sister Abby Baker, 9, watch and wait their turn. The Bocce Court officially opened June 1 and was funded by La Societa Italiana.

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An ancient game has started a new history in Dawson County.

Bocce, a game that has variations dating back to ancient Egypt, has come to Veterans Memorial Park near the football field.

“It’s a game that originated in Egypt before Christ. Then the Greeks picked it up and they carried it to Italy, where it became the national game,” said Mickey Vergara, a member of La Societa’ Italiana, the organization for Italian Americans that funded the Dawsonville site.

The court’s dedication was held on June 1 by Dawson County Parks and La Societa’ Italiana. A small crowd gathered to learn how to play.

As explained by society officials, the game involves lightly throwing a small ball, called a “pallino,” onto the middle area of a long, narrow court and then trying to get four grapefruit-sized balls closer to the pallino than the opponent’s balls.

For newcomers to the game, the Dawsonville court has a nearby sign posted listing instructions. 

Vergara said the court is the organizations fifth built in the greater Atlanta area. He said he is always excited to share the game with newcomers because it is a game for everyone, no matter their age or skill level.

“I have played with four generations, including my grandson, my son and my father,” he said.

Senior Center Director Margie Weaver was at the dedication to learn how to play. She said that it will be great for her “active seniors.”

Vergara agreed.

“It’s good because they can get just a little exercise but not too much,” he said.

The game is also important to local youth and adults with disabilities, according to Special Olympics volunteer Kim Baker.

“This is really the sport that any athlete can play,” she said. “And now the new court supplies our athletes a steady place to practice for games and tournaments.”  

Dawson County resident Sam Catanzaro, member of La Societa’ Italiana, said he has been training and coaching Special Olympics athletes on bocce for more than five years and this is the first time they will have an official court.

Dawson County Parks Director Lisa Henson thanked La Societa’ Italiana for making the court possible.

“These guys were instrumental in requisitioning all the materials to build the court and helped us get the balls donated. They were wonderful,” she said. 

For more information on bocce or La Societa’ Italiana visit www.lasocietaitaliana.org.

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