New bocce pits a hit: organizers

New location at Baker Park proves popular for players and spectators.

They may not have won the bocce tournament

They may not have won the bocce tournament

Change can be a good thing, and the new location for the bocce pits at Baker Park for Sam Steele Days went off with nary a hitch, as over 40 teams came out to christen the new spot.

Dressed up in their best costumes ranging from the respectable to the ridiculous, teams kicked off the action mid-morning and carried the revelry to the evening.

Prizes went to the top two teams, with Friends taking first place and a $250 cash prize, while RV Buds came in second place, which garnered $150 in winnings.

The best costumed team was also recognized with a $50 prize, which went to the Boccerinas.

The BA Blacktop Balls of Steele bocce tournament was a separate event from the ball tournament this year, as both had previously been organized by JCI Kootenay.

The two events used to be together at the Kinsmen Quad ball park, with the bocce action in one of the diamonds, however, a different community group stepped up to take the lead on organizing the ball tournament this year.

JCI Kootenay president Mike Matejka said his group wanted to separate the bocce from the ball tournament for that reason, and Baker Park seemed like a good spot.

“We wanted to get as close to downtown as possible, where they had the central fairgrounds, where all the other events were taking place,” said Matejka. “We were right next to the parade route as well, so we felt like we were definitely able to get some foot traffic from some people that were attending some of the other events, and it also allows the bocce players to go be spectators at other events.”

As far as feedback goes, Matejka only heard positive things about the move.

“The new location at Baker Park was a hit with players and spectators, everybody said it was a great place and we definitely intend on bringing the bocce back to Baker Park next year,” he said.

“I think we ended up with just over 800 people who came in and out of the gates.”

Even though the new location proved to be well-received, Matejka said his fellow JCI Kootenay members and volunteers were still taking notes.

“We’re pretty happy with the way setup worked for us. We’d like to continue to grow the tournament and the number of teams and number of spectators that come out and watch,” Matejka said.”

“One of our biggest things was just realizing that we do have a little bit of extra space at the park that we didn’t necessarily utilize—we could expand the area a little bit, which would allow for some more teams, more spectators, possibly more vendors and all that sort of stuff.”

Matejka also gave a shout-out of appreciation to local businesses that sponsored the event, as well as the volunteers who helped out.