Saturday’s competition, the Concours du Président, had a total of thirty-four players signed up as shooters or pointers. We played five games in a Doublette Panaché (Carrousel 2/2) format, changing partners with each game. The play was serious but friendly and as the final games were nearing their end, and points were being tallied, players headed to the aperitif table for a pastis or a glass of PÉTANQUE wine, being poured by Mark Koppen, from the Michel-Schlumberger Winery.
Soon the winners were announced and prizes – cash, trophies, bottles of PÉTANQUE wine and t-shirts – were being awarded. In the shooting division, Max Legrand took first place, donating his cash winnings back to the club. Raymond Neilson, Antoine Lofaro, Yanis Vihos, Jacques Biscay, Alain Guesella and William rounded out the winning shooters. In the pointing division, yours truly had the pleasure of tying for first place with Jean-Francois Decottignies, followed by Douglas Vernet, Adair Lee, Donna Vernet, Pierre Conte, with Eva Lofaro and Jeanine Kronenberg tying for seventh place.
By now the barbecue pits were blazing and the smell of flame-licked merguez and Italian sausages was starting to make everyone quite hungry. A little more wine, a delicious barbecue dinner and it was time to pack up and head home.
Sunday morning arrived too soon, blanketed in the same misty fog – but that will not stop a serious pétanque player. Upon arriving at the courts I saw that the crowd was even larger for the second day’s events. Many of the same players had returned with the addition of quite a few new faces. There were at least ten players from Sacramento and nine from Fresno. Marin had a good showing and there were players from Sonoma and Willits. I must not leave out the Palm Desert and Los Angeles contingencies – there for the whole weekend.
There were two tournaments scheduled – a Select Open Doubles, for the most serious players and a Mêlée Triples for the rest of us. With twenty-eight teams in the Select and twelve teams in the Mêlée, there were more games than could be handled by the club courts. The over-flow games were played on several temporary courts that had been designated on the dirt road that borders the dog park. My team played our first game on one of these, and I can say for a fact – it was truly pétanque rustique.
The Select tournament proceeded, with qualifying games to determine the concours and consolante teams. The Mêlée teams played a total of five games, random draw. The day progressed with boules flying in all directions and though the sun never came out, the true spirit of pétanque did. As the teams finished their scheduled games, players stashed their boules and found a game to watch. The hard-fought semi-finals came to an end – the finals were determined. It would be Raymond and Pim Nielson (La Boule d’Or) against Paul Yang and By Vang (Fresno).
Lawn chairs were pulled close and squeezed together as we all found our places to watch the final match. From the first boule, it was an aggressive game. The shooting and pointing was spectacular. There was awe-filled silence. There was enthusiastic cheering – for both teams. It was pétanque playing at its best. In the end, Pim’s rock-solid pointing and spot-on shooting gave the SF team the edge and they ended up with a 13-10 win. The day was decided.
The thirsty crowd headed to the aperitif table and the din of discussion grew as the various strategies and shots were being discussed. Called by a blast of the bullhorn, the group turned their focus to Joss Krauer and the awards ceremony began. Joss and Christine Lemor-Drake passed the bulky bullhorn back and forth as the words of thanks were stated in both french and english, then the ceremony took on a decidedly festive air as Christine kicked it off, bullhorn in hand, with a special presentation, to honor John Krauer’s Swiss heritage and to recognize several people who have been important to the club’s longevity. She called them by name and proclaimed them to be the L’ordes des Chevaliers de la Boule d’Or, giving each one a red baseball cap with a white Swiss cross. Then, introducing the guest presenters – Edouard Mayoral and the French Vice-Consul in SF, Jean-Charles Ledot – the winners were announced and awarded their prizes with all of the expected photo-ops.
They began with the Mêlée. I must thank my partners, Chong Xiong and Simone Furlan for making my name a part of the first place award, followed by Jean-Paul Martin, Emily Etcheverry and Chuck Klaiber; Christine Lemor-Drake and Nicolas Yang; Tom Fair, Elisabeth Gonzales and Denyse Haney; Antonia Chavez, Jean-Claude Bunand and Monique Bricca.
With the day officially over, many tired players collected their boules and headed home. The hard-working La Boule d’Or club members, along with a group of some of the participants, began the final load-out. Tables, chairs, tents, barbecue pits and lots of supplies had to be packed up and loaded into the truck before their work day was done. I helped for a while and then, when there was not much for ‘extra hands’ to do, I headed to the Metro restaurant for the weekend’s grand finale.
Owner-chef, Jacques Manuera, had prepared a delicious dinner for close to fifty of us. Seated at two long tables, we filled the room with conversation and laughter as we enjoyed the company of our teammates and our opponents. The courses arrived, the conversations continued, a toast or two was made and I arrived home around midnight, after a long but delightful weekend.
I would like to thank Michael and Jeannie Kronenberg for making the journey west from Utah to represent the Salt Lake City Petanque Club in this special celebration. It was a pleasure to meet you and I am happy you took the time to walk in the redwoods. Another thank you goes to the Michel-Schlumberger Winery for the many bottles of PÉTANQUE wine that were enjoyed – both in the glass and given out as tournament awards or raffle prizes. If there are names or details that I may have gotten wrong or left out, please forgive me. It was a long and action-filled weekend.
Many thanks, to John and Joss Krauer and their crew of hard-working helpers. It was a most enjoyable and memorable weekend. To all of the members of La Boule d’Or – Happy 50th Anniversary! May these courts, in Golden Gate Park, see the tossing of boule for many generations to come.
For a slide show from the weekend - click here - photo contributors are: John Krauer, Chris Lem and Christine Cragg
Slideshow music notes:
The Quintette of the Hot Club of France is generally considered by jazz historians to be the greatest of all European Jazz bands. The group started out as an informal jam session that was held between sets at the Hotel Claridge (37 Rue Francois 1er.) in Paris in 1933. Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, Roger Chaput and Louis Vola were playing in the hotel dance band at the time. Between sets they would play jazz together in a backroom at the hotel. One day Pierre Nourry and Charles Delaunay of Hot Club witnessed one of these sessions and arranged that the group record it's first records for the Ultraphone label in December of 1934. The group went on to become very popular in Europe both on records and as a live act. The group disbanded in 1939 as war broke out in Europe. The band was playing in London when England declared war on Germany. Stéphane Grappelli decided to stay in London and while Django Reinhardt returned to Paris. They would not see each other again until after the war in 1946.