International petanque tournament attracts hundreds of players, spectators
Gleaming metal balls from France flew through the air last weekend as many passersby wondered about all the people wandering around wearing straw Ricard hats.
With the number of different languages heard on the street, Fernandina Beach might have passed for a European town when it hosted its first petanque tournament Nov. 14-15. It was the second international petanque tournament ever held in the United States.
Petanque, pronounced "pay-tonk," is a French game that is wildly popular in Europe and is similar to both horseshoes and Italian bocce ball.
Almost 100 two-player teams from Europe and 22 U.S. states competed in the 2009 Petanque America Open on 45 gravel courts set up along the waterfront just south of the Fernandina Harbor Marina. In keeping with its roots, the tournament was sponsored by Ricard Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur popular in the South of France.