Saturday, July 8th not only marked the date of the new and exciting Jefferson Fest – Food Truck Festival, Concert, and Fireworks event but also the date of the 13th annual Irish Road Bowling Contest.
Originally started by Jack Kelly, then President of the Jefferson Arts Committee, and taken over by Tom Hantson and most recently by George Damerel, this contest has grown into an exciting event associated with Jefferson’s annual township celebration.
Four teams took part in the contest this year and had a great time with Teamy McTeamface taking the first place trophy led by Captain David Taristano with Bill Placko, Mike Vogel, and Chris Best.
Claiming second place was Captain Pete Shapiro’s Team Morris County Cannon with team members Rick Lansing, Dave Shapiro and Jeff Shepard.
Third place ended in a tie so a throw off had to be held with the Cypress Road Crew being victorious. Captain Rick Byrd led his team members Joe Sacino, Sue Sacino, and John Zimmerman to claim the last trophy.
Captain Bob Gates and his Raccoon Island team consisting of Bruce Langerkamp, Bob Simko, Brian Davenport and Mike Tatatsuki didn’t take home a trophy but nonetheless had a great time.
Family members and friends were on hand to cheer the teams on and even the children got involved in trying to find the “bowls” that went off the road as well as marking the spot where the “bowls” went off the road so players knew where to start their next throw.
For those not familiar with the game, the alley is:
- A country road approximately one mile long, and it is not officially closed; and for this event, the Arts Committee was once again allowed to use Catholic Charities Way off Weldon Road, the home of Wiegand Farms at the Department for Persons with Disabilities facility.
- No improvements are made to the road; and the road is played “as is” – uphill, downhill, and winding, and there are no bumpers along the edge of the roadway on either side.
- There is no stopping the ball when it moves so players have to also watch out for rocks and holes, poison ivy and whatever else lurks in the woods.
- A few bales of hay are at the beginning and end of the course, players mark where the ball goes off the road with chunky chalk, and there are lots of laughs along the way especially when the ball or bowl goes into the heavy underbrush and becomes difficult to find amidst the dead and sometimes wet leaves, tall grass, prickly bushes, and other natural wooded areas.
- Players requested that the bowls be spray painted florescent colors next year to make them easier to find!
The “bowl” used is small, black and dense about the size of a baseball but six times as heavy weighing 1 lb. 12 oz. The bowler is allowed to throw it however he/she sees fit, but the most common approach is basically an underhand fast-pitch softball throw with a running start. Team members throw the ball in rotation, and the team who takes the least number of throws to complete the course (similar to scoring for golf) is declared the winner.
Think about forming your own 4-member team next year – you’re sure to have a great time playing this ancient game, originally played for more than 300 years in County Armagh in Northern Ireland and in County Cork in Southern Ireland. Blending bowling, golf and bocce, Irish road bowling may sound as peculiar as it looks, but the rules are quite simple making it relatively easy for anyone to take up or follow.