6th Pétanque America Tournament in Full Swing This Weekend


Camaraderie and good times under the tent

Today and tomorrow will feature a souther French feel in downtown Fernandina Beach as the 6th Annual Pétanque America tournament is being played. Unusual cool weather did not stop 324 (167 teams) top Pétanque players from around the World and North America, from coming to Fernandina Beach this weekend to compete for prizes and titles in the 6th Annual Pétanque American tournament, that arguable has become the largest tournament in its field in North America. Up until this year the maximum number of competitors had been limited to 256 playing in teams of two at the River front Downtown, which can accommodate 64 courts.

Additional courts were built in Central Park this year to accommodate the courts needed for almost 70 more players in the growing event. One of the oldest players this year is celebrity chef, TV personality and author Jacques Pépin  who turns 79 next month. Jacques, who also appeared in the first year (2009) will be promoting his latest cookbook and the PBS 26 series cooking show Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul, that began production a couple of weeks ago.

The Kings of the Game with Philippe Boets and assistant TJ Seaton

The Kings of the Game with Philippe Boets and volunteer TJ Seaton

Again this year all eyes will be focused on the performances and workshops of at least 5 current and former World Champions in this game that invites people of all ages to compete.

Today are the preliminary games, organized in such a way that every team plays at least 5 games. Organizer Philippe Boets and his crew of assistants and volunteers believe that 5 games ‘justify’ a trip to Amelia Island every November, a formula that seems to be working well, considering the large amount of familiar faces at last night’s welcome party, which was catered beautifully and plentiful by a number of downtown restaurants.

If you are a spectator, take yourself to the Riverfront in Fernandina Beach today and tomorrow. The atmosphere is truly French Riviera, food, beverages and music wise. We’ll be posting first day results later.

Updates on the Eve of the 5th Annual Pétanque Tournament

Getting ready for the 5th Annual Pétanque America Open on Amelia Island

Already the 5th Annual Pétanque America Open Tournament, as the French Provincial (Provence) ball game has taken Amelia Island by storm. The local Boule Club became the largest club in the US, exactly one year ago and registration of the tournament had to become selective with only space for 256 players or 128 teams.

And as usual when space becomes premium, the quality goes up. And mark this, not only registration had to be closed 2 months ahead of the tournament (Sept. 13), we’re also welcoming 5 WORLD CHAMPIONS, who collectively won every other title in the sports -Marco Foyot (1992), Claudy Weibel (2000), Dylan Rocher (2012), Jean-Francois Hemon (2000).

The countries represented in the 2013 tournament are the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Australia, Slovakia, Canada, Great-Britain, Mexico, Poland, Cayman Islands and Switzerland and the States in the Union represented are Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Virginia, California, Arizona, Oregon, New Jersey, Washington, New York, Maine, South Carolina, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland.

Since 2009 the tournament is played on the courts that are specially built on the boat trailer parking lot on the river in Downtown Fernandina Beach

The Program starts with

Clinics on Friday Nov 8
World Champions Marco Foyot,  Damien Hureau and Dylan Rocher will each hold 3 clinics. The latter two with assistance of Claudy Weibel.
One clinic in the morning, two in the afternoon.
60 minutes, max. 10 participants, $25 p.p.
Ed Porto & Frank Pipal (FPUSA) will hold 3 clinics, intended for beginners.
One in the morning, two in the afternoon.
60 minutes, max. 10 participants, $15 p.p.
The clinics are not simultaneous, so you can participate in more than one.
Part of the proceeds will benefit Eight Flags Playscapes, a new local playground for children of all abilities.
Participation is on a first reply basis.
Payment (cash or check) at the tent, before the clinic.

Player Registration 2-5pm

Opening Party 5-7:30pm with foods provided by downtown restaurants, beverages and Live Music by Dan Voll and Friends

Tournament starts Saturday Nov 9  for timeline program click here

Saturday Lunchtime Live Music by Island Vibe.

Sunday Lunchtime Live Music by Dan Voll and Friends

Sunday Closing Party Live Music by Island Vibe

TIP: If you don’t have too much time to spend this weekend, then open your calendar up for the SHOOTING CONTEST between the 5 World Champions sometime around 5pm on Saturday. We promise your jaw will drop!

2013 Petanque America Open

2013 Petanque America OpenIt is time for the 2013 Petanque America Open! November 8, 9 and 10th brings the 6th truly open, international and largest Petanque Tournment in the U.S.A. to the downtown waterfront of Amelia Island, Florida.

The tournament features teams of two players each competing for $8,000 in combined prizes. A welcome party celebrates over 250 participants traveling from all over the world. Last year there were 256 players from 22 states, and 11 countries.

A variety of clinics and trainings will be acailable with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Eight Flags Playscapes, a Pirate themed playground being built in Fernandina Beach for children of all abilities.

The event is just as much fun for spectators, too:

Saturday, November 9, 2013
8:30 AM – Team check in for late arrivals, official opening ceremonies, group photo and briefing.
9:00 AM – Start of the morning games. Each team plays two games.
12:00 – Lunch break
1:00 PM – Afternoon games, each team plays three games.
Around 5:00 pm – shooting contest between World Champions

Sunday, November 10, 2013
8:00 AM – Teams check in and announcements.
9:00 AM – Rounds 1 and 2 concours and consolantes
Noon – Lunch break
1:00 PM – Rounds 3 and 4 concours and consolantes
Around 6:00 PM Finals councours and consolantes
After the finals: Awards ceremony under the big tent.

Dan Voll and Friends will play on Saturday and Sunday at lunchtime.
Island Vibe will play Friday and Sunday evenings.

If you aren’t familiar with the game, check out this short video below:

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2013 Nassau County High School Petanque Tournament

2013 Nassau County High School Petanque Tournament

The second annual Nassau County High School Petanque Tournament is Saturday, October 26, 2013, at the Fernandina Beach Marina courts. Everyone is invited to attend to watch, especially if you have never watched or played Petanque!

The Schedule is as follows:

12:00 (noon) – Clinic and practice for contestants
12:45 PM – Registration (teams must be present), and random drawing of team parings
1:00 PM – 1st Round
1:20 PM – 2nd Round
1:40 PM – 3rd Round
2:00 PM – 4th Round
2:30 Final Round
3:00 PM – Awards and pictures

Scores will be tabulated and the top four teams will advance to a single final round. The top two teams will play for 1st and 2nd place, and the third and fourth highest scores will play for 3rd and 4th places.

With the Petanque America Open being played in Fernandina Beach next month, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn why hundreds of people from all around the world are coming to Amelia Island to play this exciting French game.

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Prepare for a Three Day Belgian Invasion

160 Classic Cars waiting to go onboard

Waiting in Antwerp Harbor to get shipped to New York

Owners of Classic Cars all over the world are part of a special breed. They have “secret” signs when they meet each other on the road. They have ‘sinister’ distribution networks for long expired parts and they like to socialize a lot. In any country of the world were classic cars are appreciated this is pretty much standard behavior. And this is also the case in Belgium, a monarchy that operates inside of the European Union and even though for more than one hundred years, the Flemish north and the Walloon South have supposedly been hating each others guts on political levels, you start a Classic Car Club and members on both sides of the language barrier are friends and hoist a glass of beer or wine to each others health.

A very entrepreneurial club founded 10 years ago, named itself Touramical (Friendly Tour) put their classic jewels on the road in annual vacation like rally trips and travel as a group around Europe to have fun. Bulgaria, Barcelona, Biaritz, Greece in 2014, one or two adventure trips a year with great memories and special relationships.

In 2011 they went to Morocco and drove in caravan style from Fes to Marrakech and on to Casablanca. Earlier this year they did Zaragoza, Madrid, Zaragoza in Spain and because this year is the  Club’s 10 Year Anniversary, they decided on a USA trip north-south on the Eastern Seaboard. For the occasion the Club has renamed itself into Touramerical, which will start its road trip descent with 160 beautifully kept Classic Cars from New York on October 8 and ending in Miami 8 days later. Just imagine the logistic of shipping 160 classic cars RoRo from the port in Antwerp to Port Elizabeth Newark/New Jersey, including spare parts and manuals and back up vehicles…for the fun of it!!!!! The importation and insurance paperwork alone involved would make any normal thinking person run for the hills, but not these Belgians. They have set their mind on doing something real special for their 10 year celebration and a road trip on the Eastern Seaboard is the answer. There is one more novelty on this trip: it’s the first one for both men and women. Until now it was a “men only event”.

Amelia Island Stop

So what makes this rally interesting for our island?? Well, there is this Belgian guy, Philippe Boets, who came to our island almost four and a half years ago and introduced us to the French ball game of Pétanque. He set up office in June and already in November of that first year in 2009 he managed to organize a Open Tournament with players flying in from around the world. Now 4 years later that tournament is already a staple in our November activities. But Philippe Boets does much more than only promoting the game of Pétanque in America. He loves music, plays bass in the local band “Island Vibe”, ……and is always on the look-out for special promotions.

A couple of years ago he managed to divert the Millenium Carillion on a tour up north from Naples, to take a detour and treat us to a Bell Concert on the Riverfront. And now this year he managed to convince the Touramerical organization to detour and make a stop on Centre Street in Downtown Fernandina Beach on three consecutive days- October 13,14 and 15- and enjoy our shores and hospitality for a couple of hours, before moseying down to Daytona Beach.

You can read everything Touramerical on their website and Like them on Facebook and make a note in your agenda to come see these beautiful classic vehicles as they wind down on their adventure rally from New York to Miami.

FPUSA Compliments Amelia Island Boules Accomplishments

Amelia Island Petanque shoot out.

etanque enthusiasts watch 3 champions compete in a 100 ball shout out

The president of the Federation of Pétanque USA, Ed Porto, recognized our Amelia Island Boules Club and Pétanque America’s Philippe Boets in its newsletter for their outstanding performance in recent years in spreading the word about this magnificent ball game throughout the United States and beyond.

Especially Philippe Boets efforts have made this French-Provençial game a household word in our community and it is gratifying to see how this has caught the attention of  national Petanque community.

Last month’s PETANQUE AMERICA international Tournament attracted some 300 players from around the world to our shores, including 3 of the World’s top players.

FPUSA president Ed Porto said this in the Newsletter statement: “Earlier this month, I was able again to play in the Pétanque America Open in Amelia Island, Florida (try this link). I got to meet many pétanque enthusiasts from around the country and see some world class players compete. Philippe Boets and his staff, including most of the Amelia Island Boules club continue to do a stellar job building further on our country’s premier pétanque event -with more technique clinics this year as well as a shooting contest among three former world champions in attendance. If you have never been to this tournament, I would encourage you to make it there sometime. (It is always held on the second weekend of November.) The tournament this year went to Belgian champion Claudy Weibel, who for the occasion had teamed up with Jean Pierre Subrenat from the New York Pétanque Club, who consistently has scored high in the past 4 tournaments on the Fernandina Beach Riverfront.

Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach once again was transformed into a Mediterranean Village where the sound of many different languages, the many different country and club flags,  added to the laid-back character of the game.
Mr. Porto also proudly announced that FPUSA has surpassed both the 1,700-member and 40-club thresholds for the first time in its history, including a record 400 new members in one year, especially recognizing Amelia Island Boules which club recently became the largest club in the USA with 112 members (and growing)!
Kudos go out to all who have made this happen in a short 3 year time span.

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Pétanque Tournament All Set To Go

Petanque at the riverfront in Fernandina Beach

The rough work is done, the courts are in. Thanks City and AIBC!

More than 260 players are ready to show us once again why Pétanque is such a marvelous pastime sport. When the Pétanque America Open kicks off tomorrow with a whole day of “clinics, no less than 3 former world champions and players from 10 foreign countries how flown in this year to compete for the $7,500 purse. On the roster are France, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Slovakia, Germany, Mexico, Israel, Cayman Islands and Morocco. For the first time in the history of pétanque in the U.S.A., the three European masters will participate on Friday in a 100 boules shooting contest, something you do not want to miss according to the Amelia Island Bound 2012 Pétanque Facebook page.

We already reported that in the past week the Amelia Island Boules Club became the biggest Pétanque Club in America, easily surpassing the clubs in New York and Fresno and still growing daily with new members, definitely underscoring Philippe Boets’ original thought that if you can make it fun, friendly and inviting, people from all ages, ability and walks of life will join.

Under the spirited leadership of Amelia Island Boules Club president Jimmy Weinsier, a group of volunteers managed to get the courts tournament ready on Wednesday night and the rest of the tent village entourage erected on Thursday.

volunteers for 4th petanque america tournament on amelia islandvolunteers for 4th petanque america tournament on amelia islandvolunteers for 4th petanque america tournament on amelia islandFinishing touches early on Friday morning, a gorgeous weather forecast and off we are to the 4th Tournament in as many years.

We are looking forward to see many old friends and welcome as many new friends.

Thanks Philippe, for recognizing that Amelia Island was made for Pétanque.

Amelia Island Petanque tournament 2012

Program for the Tournament Days

Amelia Island Pétanque Club Now Largest in the Nation

AIBC members play at various locations around the island

AIBC members play at various locations around the island

Less than 4 years after Philippe Boets moved his company Pétanque America from Greensboro NC to Fernandina Beach, The Amelia Island Boules Club (AIBC) ranks as the largest Pétanque Club in the USA.

Prior to his arrival, the French Provençal game of Pétanque was virtually unknown here on our shores. But a week from now, on November 8, 9 and 10, we’re looking at the 4th edition of what in a short few years has become the largest Pétanque Tournament in the USA with 260 competitors (in teams of two) flying or driving in from 20 states in the Nation and 10 countries in the world, to compete in the 2012 Pétanque America Open.

“Three years ago, hardly anyone on the island had ever heard of the game. Now 14 teams from the Amelia Island Boules Club are in training and all set to compete against the visitors. That’s exactly what I was hoping for when I first saw the downtown waterfront: boats, breeze, sunshine and a huge open space. The perfect spot to play pétanque!” said Philippe Boets, president & founder of Pétanque America. Adding that “the game has rapidly become very popular on the island, year-round.

That our little island has now the largest Pétanque Club in the nation will become official next week when the Federation of Pétanque USA officials will be on island for the Pétanque America Open. At SearchAmelia we’re are happy and honored to have been there at the beginning when Philippe came down on a cold but sunny weekend in January 2009 to come and check out our island, and now with lifting the Amelia Island Boules Club over the last little hurdle to become the largest club in the USA. What a magnificent ride!


Preliminary rounds start on Saturday morning, along the Fernandina Marina at the downtown waterfront, with finals scheduled for late Sunday afternoon. Competition for the $7,500 purse will be stiff and guarantee spectacular performances by players of all ages, from novices to champions. The field of competitors this year has not only several members of the actual USA national team, that just returned from the World Championships in Marseille, France, it also includes three previous world champions – Marco Foyot and Damien Hureau (France) and Claudy Weibel (Belgium).

Click to Enlarge

In the 2009 tournament we had the great pleasure to watch Belgian born Claudy Weibel take the top spot in the tournament with some incredible shooting and last year winner Marco Foyot gave us all a glimpse of what pure talent and lots of practice can accomplish in this game.

The community is welcome all weekend, free of charge, to watch and try out the game around the tournament grounds. Equipment will be made available by Pétanque America, with players of the Amelia Island Boules Club eager to teach.

Another great attraction ill be to watch the world champions hold clinics and demonstrations on Friday, with proceeds going to ‘Communities in Schools’ – Nassau County.

And the tournament site, downtown on the Marina Parking lot, will serve a variety of food, beer and wine bar and live music from around the world. New this year is a market place to replicate the village atmosphere that goes hand in hand with the game. To complement the French experience, Ricard pastis, the anise flavored drink so typical of the South of France is available on the spot, as well as at bars and restaurants downtown.

For those who have heard about the game, but don’t know what the fuss is all about:

Pétanque originated in the Provence of Southern France in the early 1900’s as a simplified version of an older outdoor bowling game. The aim is to toss, or roll a number of hollow metal balls (“boules”) as close as possible to a small wooden target ball (cocoon or piglet). Players take turns and the team that ends up nearest to the target ball when all balls are played, wins. No special skill is required, seniors can play with children, the equipment is inexpensive. The game is simple, fun, relaxing yet competitive, and a perfect way to make new friends. Over the past 20 years its popularity has grown worldwide, with national leagues in 95 countries.

The French Are Coming…!!!

These schooners can be viewed on Saturday at the Fernandina Harbour

Four hundred and fifty years ago around this time of the year, some natives might have wondered about the ships on the horizon when French Sailor and settler Jean Ribault decided to step ashore and build a small settlement on our island which he had called Ile de Mai. The year was 1562.

Until then there had been little interest among the early discoverers of the new world. That would soon enough change however and Ile de May changed flags no less than 8 times before it finally became Amelia Island.
To commemorate the start of it all, we are welcoming two Atlantic crossing French Navy Schooners (L’Etoile and La Belle Poule) this weekend at the docks of Fernandina Beach and in honor of the decision to make the first mainland stop of their historic Atlantic crossing here on Amelia Island, we will party: French style, which means games, good food and lots of throat caressing fluids.
This is quite a different welcome than 450 years ago when French and Spanish were contesting supremacy in the area. Without going into the details once again of the cruel life created by religion in those days, it should be noted that in true sense of history, Amelia Island was settled 3 years before St.Augustine, when Ribault built a settlement here called Fort Caroline.
The bloodbath in “the name of the Lord” at Matanzas led to the annihilation of the residents of the island’s first settlement and in the process created yet another historical abberation that qualifies for the “He who Wins, Writes History” trophy.

The fight over the title " oldest settlement in America"

The fight over the title " oldest settlement in America"

This time around however, the French sailors, after tying up to our docks, will find pleasantness, music, wine and good food and an invitation to participate in a Spring Pétanque tournament on coming Sunday, in which the “local” Petanqiers, coming from Tallahassee, St. Augustine and Amelia Island, hope to playfully “massacre” the sailors in a competitive encounter at the downtown riverfront.

The Ships

The 123 ft long sister ships were built in Fécamp, France in 1932.
The “Belle Poule” was named after the original 26-gun frigate that started the French intervention in the American War of Independence in 1778 in its famous battle with England’s “Arethusa”. Both ships served the Free French Forces during the Second World War and since serve as training vessels.
They came to Florida in honor of the 450th anniversary of French Capt. Jean Ribault’s arrival. After celebrations in Jacksonville on May 1st, they will head to Savannah, Annapolis, Philadelphia and New York. Fernandina Beach welcomes the sailors for a well deserved weekend of R & R after their 7 week voyage across the Atlantic.

How Amelia Island became their first stop on the Mainland USA?

One reason, and one reason only. That reason is called Philippe Boets; the same guy that brought us the game of Pétanque and the Dutch Bells on the Waterfront a couple of years ago. Philippe read about the history and the Schooners sailing to the “New World” and climbed in the phone to arrange for our island to get its proper place in the historic line-up. And…he pulls it off once again. I won’t bother you with all the logistics involved in having two foreign Navy schooners dock in a US port for a couple of days of R&R. Most people would walk away from it at one point or another in the slow and frustrating process. Not Philippe Boets.  The man is just remarkable and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Program of Celebrations

Here is the celebration program for this weekend.

Fri  April 27
At 4pm (irrespective of ships arrival time)
Brief welcome by:
● Ms Arlene Filkoff, Mayor of Fernandina Beach.
● Mr François Kloc, Consul of France in Jacksonville.
● young singers from St Michael Academy.
at the north pier of the FB Harbor Marina.
Sat  April 28
Ships are open to the public.
From 9 to 11am and from 2 to 5pm.
Visits are free.
Sun  April 29
Petanque (French bowling game) tournament.
From 12:30 to 6pm
Local teams from Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St Augustine and Tallahassee will take on the French sailors.
At the south end of the Marina parking lot.
Free to the public.
Wine, beer, food and lots of French music.
Around 10pm. Ships depart
PS: Did you know that Fernandina Beach once back in the 1860’s had a French Mayor who developed the production of Olive Oil on the Island?  His great grand children just visited me at the Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast. Quite a fascinating story. More about that next week.

Game of Petanque is Expanding on Amelia Island

New Petanque Courts in Central Park

New Petanque Courts in Central Park, Fernandina Beach

The popularity of the old French Ball Game of Pétanque is growing rapidly on Amelia Island.
Introduced to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach less than 3 years ago by Philippe Boets, who moved his company Pétanque America from North Carolina to the island and started organizing The Pétanque America International Open Tournament that has brought many players from around the nation and the world to our island since.

Soon after the first tournament in 2009, we saw Pétanque Courts appear around the island in private yards and outdoor restaurants. Some of the housing communities are now making space for courts to play this wonderful game and even resorts are picking up on the growing trend.

The City of Fernandina Beach has been an enthusiastic supporter of the new game and gracefully provided a number of courts to the local Petanque Club down at the waterfront marina year round and has now expanded that support with several new courts right in Central Park on Atlantic Avenue.

Happy New Year from the Amelia Island Boule Club

Happy New Year from the Amelia Island Boule Club

It’s good to see this century old Southern French game take hold so rapidly on this island, which is what Philippe Boets already said when he first visited here in January of 2009. Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach just felt right. With the local Pétanque club already reaching 60 member players and scoring quite nice during the recent international tournament in November, the future looks good for the game.

If you want to try it out, the club plays Wednesday nights (5pm -) and Saturday mornings (8:30-) near the Boat trailer parking lot at the River Downtown, but don’t be surprised if you catch players at Café Karibo or Central Park or any of the private courts around the island.
You can friend the Amelia Island Boules Club on Facebook and learn about this sport for all ages or you can go of course directly to “la bouche de cheval” Philippe, who can set you up with the right equipment to join in.

Amelia Islanders Successful in Int’l Pétanque Tournament

Petanque America Amelia Island 2011 Group Photo

The Players at the 2011 Petanque America Tournament on Amelia Island

It was already the third edition of the Pétanque America Open Tournament last weekend on Fernandina Beach’s riverfront and once again the event was graced with glorious weather. And this year’s remarkably strong performance of 3 local teams made the tournament extra sweet. I would have to check back in the archives to find out if we had any local teams in the 2009 tournament, but if so, there could not have been many, since the game of Pétanque was entirely unknown in these regions, unless there was a French heritage involved. Well that has changed a lot in a little over 2 years and 3 tournaments.

Since 2009, the tournament has grown from 88 teams to 136 teams this year and the appetite for this magnificent game on our island has led to the formation of the Amelia Island Boules Club which sent no less than 14 teams to this year’s competition. Three of these teams made it into the prize money; a very pleasant surprise and measuring stick of the progress for the game here on island. All those Wednesday nights and Saturday Mornings practicing at the waterfront, on Café Karibo’s courts or behind the Rec Center in the heat of the summer, are paying off.

Locals Nicolas & Caroline Lacand, Bryan Mason & Jason Deringer and John & Colleen Hodge came out on top in the consolation rounds and if we’re talking 136 teams from all over the country and the globe, that is truly remarkable and promising for the future of the game of Pétanque here on Amelia Island.

On the professional level the tournament was pretty much a done deal for multiple French world champion Marco Foyot who had teamed up for the occasion with country man Bernard Martin who resides in Bradenton Florida. Foyot, who has been a force in the sport since the early 1980s already showed during his clinics prior to the tournament on Friday, that he would be the one to beat. In the end however he showed to be too strong for the rest of the field, even though 3rd time competitor Jean Pierre Subrenat and his young partner Damien Hureau managed to give the winners a serious run for their money in the finals, that pulled the game way past another gorgeous sunset to a finish in artificial light.

Foyot has made it a personal tradition before every final he competes in, to auction of his personal balls (boules) for one of his charities. He had a pretty good catch here on Amelia Island as his balls fetched $750 in the winning bid.

The final results for the concours were:

1. Bernard Martin (Bradenton FL) / Marco Foyot (France)
2. Jean-Pierre Subrenat (New York NY) / Damien Hureau (France)
3. Ben Gauthier (Canada) / Mario Gagné (Canada)
4. Peter Mathis (Sonoma CA) / Geoffrey  Canada)

Why Amelia Island Tournament is so Successful and Attracts Players from around the World

l to r: TJ Seaton, Philippe Boets, Bernard Martin and Marco Foyot

With the way the tournament here on Amelia Island is laid out, every team has a minimum of 7 games to play (5 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday morning) before semi finals and finals in winners and consolation groups take place on Sunday afternoon. This avoids eliminations in the first round, and the result is that everyone’s happy and stays in beautiful Fernandina Beach for the duration of the tournament and beyond. Hotels and Inns are booked, restaurants are full and shops are busy as the Historic District enjoys a Riviera style atmosphere. It does also require however the magical transformation of a normal boat trailer parking lot into no less than 68 competition courts in the days leading up to the tournament, which is done in a most superb public/private cooperation effort as the City’s Public Works Department and tournament volunteers get the special surfaces ready.

The Award Ceremony at Sandy Bottoms was packed until midnight on Sunday night and if Sandy Bottoms had opened its outside deck bar, the party would probably still be going on, because the weather was just magnificent.

Pétanque Friends are Gathering in Downtown Fernandina

Registration Day for the 2011 Petanque America Open in Fernandina Beach

Even though it was only supposed to be registration day, several hundred competitors were already on the courts at the downtown marina on Friday.

This is now the third year that smiling faces, hugs, kisses on both cheeks and a Babylon variety of languages turns the second weekend in November into “Fernandina on the French Riviera”.

It turns out that most players and their families have already been in town for several days or are planning to stay for another week or ten day after the  Pétanque America Open tournament. Friday was set aside for registration, a number of clinics, for beginners to learn the ropes and for advanced players to marvel at what can be done with three metal balls and a little piglet.

Names are yelled across the court as yet another set of players meets up with new  and old friends they haven’t seen since last year’s tournament. This Friday afternoon is a Chamber of Commerce afternoon, with a sunset that makes everyone drop their boules for a quick photo break.

The bars are open, Ricard is flowing freely, the band of local musicians under Dan Voll’s musical direction, has started up and Philippe Boets is happy. Smiling from ear to ear he says: “Wouldn’t it be great to have this once a month on this waterfront.” I shake my head. I know Philippe and I know what it takes for him and TJ and a group of enthusiastic volunteers, to put this together.  And once again it all came beautifully together and the weather, although brisk, seems to hold nicely for the weekend. Colorful tents, strip lights, live music and games for people to have fun even though it is serious fun once the competitions starts.

After the sun set, it became almost surreal when local downtown restaurants like Kelly’s Courtyard, Lulu’s, Café Karibo, Arte’s Pizza and others started to bring in gratuitous delicious dishes for the  players and organizers. Truly, Amelia island and historic Fernandina are rapidly making friends all over the world. Friends that look forward to coming back year after year.

If you have a chance this weekend, come on down to the river front where the boat trailer parking lot has been transformed into 136 playing courts and a village of entertainment, food and bars. It’s officially Pétanque America weekend in the city (Philippe has a Proclamation to prove it). Come out and have fun and learn why this game is rapidly conquering the island and the country. And if you see our cameras, smile….because you’re going to be on video.

2011 Petanque America on Amelia Island

Players from around the World at 2011 Petaque Tournament Fernandina Beach

Evrywhere Petanque is played, Ricard is available

Update on 2011 Pétanque Tournament on Amelia Island

Staff and Volunteers for 2011 Pétanque America Open

Staff and Volunteers for 2011 Pétanque America Open

There is a Boule Buzz growing on Amelia Island. The preparations for the 3rd Pétanque America Open Tournament are starting to move into high gear with excitement written on many local faces. The old French game came to Amelia Island about two and a half years ago and a handful of local enthusiasts put the first tournament together on a shoestring and with much enthusiasm. Even already that first year 90 teams from around the globe and North America motored and flew in and Amelia Island fell in love with the game and the French Riviera atmosphere it created at the historic waterfront. This year there are 136 teams (272 players) registered, while dozens more had to be cancelled because maximum court capacity had been reached long before the 2011 summer was over.

Last night 2 dozen Tournament volunteers gathered at Pétanque America’s Warehouse to discuss the logistics and allot work schedules and tasks for the preparation, three days of tournament and the breakdown afterwards. An amazing energy poured from the group, which resulted in the amazing fact that the entire program discussion took maybe an hour, during which court construction, port-o-lets, raising of tents, manning of booths and bars, food court, entertainment, stages, registrations, award ceremonies, cleaning and more were projected, dissected, inspected and allotted to volunteers, all the while enjoying pizza, snack foods and a glass of life’s wonderful adult beverage options. Being closely involved with several other events on the island and the meeting schedules they take, I was pleasantly surprised not to even have to miss my Monday night TV show line up.

With coordination of all the activities in the now experienced hands of Pétanque America owner Philippe Boets and his trusted right hand TJ Seaton, the official part of the meeting was  over in less than 45 minutes, rounded of by a quick but delightful trivia for some Pétanque gadgets prizes, a parting beer or wine and whispered arrangements between several local teams that are playing in the tournament to hit the practice courts in anticipation.

The game of Pétanque (Jeu de Boules) as it is played today, showed its origins sometime around the turn of the 20th century (1898-1907) in the Southeast of France from where over the years it traveled pretty much all over the world, often on the wings of French Liquor Distiller Ricard from the Mediterranean port City of Marseille. Pétanque today is played by millions in more than 65 countries, most notably in Western Europe, Southeast Asia and North and Central America. Since the mid 1980s the game of Petanque has been growing in the US into a respectable number of clubs around the country . No surprise therefore that this year’s preliminary tournament statistics include players from 23 US states, besides Canada, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and Israel; also 67% of the players are male and 33% female; the exact age range is not known yet, but maybe about the same as last year when the youngest tournament player was 14 and the oldest 83.

Pétanque, the Greatest Game You've Never Heard Of

Pétanque, the Greatest Game You've Never Heard Of on Amelia Island

Pétanque, the Greatest Game You’ve Never Heard Of

“If you’re looking for a fun distraction during a family barbeque, stick with Italian Bocce; if you want to be challenged with a subtle, complex, multi-layered, inexpensive, egalitarian, environmentally friendly and truly universal sport – then you’ve got to give Pétanque a hard look”, says Byron Putnam.

Like all great sports it can be played casually, but it’s true essence is only revealed (and fully appreciated) during intense competition. A couple of weeks ago Putman came out with the first comprehensive English language Pétanque book; Petanque, the Greatest Game You’ve Never Heard Of. Petanque America will have this brandnew soft cover book available for sale at the tournament and after thumbing through it last night, I am sure it’s going to lift Pétanque in America out of its relative obscurity, played from relax lifestyle locations like Amelia Island to Bryant Park nestled in between Manhattan high rises, to mainstream America. The game is just that much fun!

Here is an outline of the finalized tournament program so far.

Friday, November 11
– 90 Minute Morning and Afternoon Clinics for Beginners and Intermediate Players. Cost $15 and $30. Half of the collected monies go to the Boys and Girls Club.
– Official Player Registration starts at 4:30 pm. Local Businesses that would like to offer something special to the players, to be included in the registration package need to contact TJ Seaton at stmaartengirl45@yahoo.com

Saturday , November 12
Start 8:15 – with Welcome by Mayor Susan Steger
– the National Anthem
– Group Picture
The  Morning includes 3 games per couple and the afternoon includes 2 games.
The first game day closes with Happy Hour and Live Music

Sunday, November 13
Start 8:30
– Finals anticipated around 5pm
– Happy Hour and Live Music after the finals are over

9:00 Award Ceremony – Location to be announced

Amelia Island Festivals and Events Left for 2011

See you for Pétanque in November

For almost 18 months we had been prepping for the first Amelia Island Blues Festival and then it came and it went and we’re already working on putting the second one together for next year September 14,15 and 16. Yes, three days of Blues and BBQ at the Beach instead of two, as the organizers were collectively attacked by an unguarded moment of masochism while celebrating the success of the first event.

And so we have officially moved from Summer into Fall, and in shock I realize that we’re only just a few events and one festival away from another year sent off into history.

This weekend starts the week long Amelia Island Jazz Festival with the last Sounds on Centre of the Year today. We’re already looking at the third edition of the Petanque America Open in November, yet the first one held in 2009 is still lingering fresh in my digital storage banks.
Philip Boets, owner/operator of Pétanque America, has almost exponentially grown the event from 80 teams in 2009 to 140 teams this November, with players coming in from as far away as Europe, Israel and Southeast Asia.

The traditional French Sport, with a name nobody locally could pronounce just a short couple of years ago, now sees playing courts sprout up in private backyards and residential developments across the island. The local club founded last year has dozens of members who come out every Wednesday evening and Saturday Morning to play the game, that could very well be France’s favorite pastime.

Here is the official list of Events, Festivals and Celebrations for the remainder of 2011

Today September 30 – SOUNDS ON CENTRE with Les deMerle (Centre and 3rd) 6-8pm

October 2-9   – AMELIA ISLAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (All over the Island)
October 8-9   – REDFISH TOURNAMENT (Downtown)
October 13-16 – ATLANTIC COAST TRIATHLON (Beaches)
October 15    – 8 FLAGS CAR SHOW (Historic Downtown)

November 5    – VETERAN’S DAY PARADE (Centre Street)
– Carshow at Quality Health of
November 11-13 – PETANQUE AMERICA OPEN TOURNAMENT (Waterfront Downtown)
November 25   – P.J. PARTY on BLACK FRIDAY (Downtown)
December 3    – PARADE OF PAWS
December 3    – REINDEER RUN
December 10   – LAND AND SEA PARADES (Downtown)

Does anyone share my Pet Peeve?

We all agree that Amelia Island has a very active calendar of events every year. Possibly the only month we’re kind of slow is January, but as soon as February comes along the Festival Season starts with Book and Film Festivals and doesn’t stop from there until the middle of October.
Since the success of many events and festivals depend on sponsor contributions, donations and/or ticket sales, I do wonder why so many events are scheduled on competing dates. The Animal Support organization RAIN planned a major fundraiser on the Saturday of the Blues Festival. Rotaries, Kiwanis, Humane Societies, Micah’s Place and many other organizations and groups on the island often unwittingly organize fundraisers on competing days with each other, instead of spreading them over the available weekends. Of course this does not always mean that the same groups of people are targeted, but take for example the second weekend in November is proclamated by the city as Petanque America day, hence the International Tournament. Lots of local people will actively or passively attend the event, yet Rotary Sunrise organizes on the same Saturday their Amelia Challenge, while Quality Health of Amelia puts up a Car Show with all the trimmings. In contrast there is nothing organized in the weekends of October 22 -29 or November 5th except for the Veteran’s Day Parade which already brings people to town, ready for more action than just a one hour parade.

We have noticed on many occasions throughout the year how events splinter attendance and good hard work of organizers goes to waste, because of poor attendance.  Considering a continuous slow economy and tight money policies it would be smart for many organizing committees to plan their event timing away from directly “competing” events and a central register of ALL published events would be a great start. Maybe just a thought for next year.

Pétanquers Know How To Party

Second Annual Local Petanque Tournament-Amelia Island

Twenty Six Teams showed up for the second local Spring Pétanque tournament at the waterfront in Downtown Fernandina Beach Sunday afternoon. Lounge chairs, tents, a barbecue grill, drinks and music and the party started under a partially clouded sky.

Instead of the usual first 13 points makes the winner game, time was the determining factor on this afternoon, which was clearly to the advantage of the experienced players who don’t need to warm up. Nobody complaint however. Smiling faces all around. Philippe Boets of Petanque America walked around his usual self, making sure everyone was having fun.

The local tournament last year attracted 14 teams and by observation, all seemed to be present as well this year, except unfortunately our SearchAmelia team, which opted out this time, missing our brother and partner Thom. As life goes on however, I was happy to see that the tournament had almost doubled and many players showed that they had not forgotten Thom.

The BBQ was manned by a Petanque playing chef from the Ritz and the goodies coming off the grill were delicious. The atmosphere and ambience feels more and more like the Provence in France on a cloudy afternoon, exactly as Philipe had envisioned when he came to Amelia Island two years ago.

Great people, much improved playing from last year and a wonderful way to close up yet another active Amelia Island weekend with the Taste of the Blues party on Main Beach and the Spring Opening of the Beach.

Here are some pictures.

A Perfect Sunday Afternoon on Amelia Island

Two competing teams are all smiles

A Game that brings together young and old

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