Second annual East Side Bocce Tournament set for July 10

(East Side Bocce Tournament organizer and city of Cortland resident Andrew Pierce)

The second annual East Side Bocce Tournament is slated for Saturday, July 10 at 2 p.m. at Dexter Park in Cortland.

It is a team-based, championship tournament, with four players on each team. Registration for the tournament is at the East Side Bakery on Elm Street. The cost is $20 for each player (or $80 per team).

The Cortland Youth Bureau assists in lining the bocce courts for the tournament at Dexter Park, said tournament organizer and city of Cortland resident Andrew Pierce.

Half of the funds raised for the tournament will go to St. Anthony’s Church on Pomeroy Street. The other half will be in the form of prize money for the team champion, and the second and third-place finishers. The team will also receive medals with “little bocce ball medallions on them,” Pierce said.

There will also be a raffle for three sets of bocce balls, Pierce added. The tournament falls on the same weekend as the St. Anthony’s Festival has historically been held on, but this year’s festival was recently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first-ever tournament was held in 2019. The second was supposed to occur in 2020, but the pandemic forced it to be cancelled.

The tournament in 2019 was “a hit and it took off,” Pierce said.

“I was hoping to get 20-25 people (for the first tournament), but there ended up being about 80 people who participated in it,” he said. “Families of the players and other community members would come by and watch the tournament as well.”

With eight teams signed up so far for this year’s tournament, Pierce is hoping to get 20 teams once again. If more than 20 teams register for it, Pierce added “it’s a good problem to have and we welcome all teams.”

Born and raised in Cortland, Pierce came up with the idea for the tournament after growing up on the eastside of the city. He and his family played bocce on Sundays with Italian-American families who live on Port Watson, Franklin and Elm Streets.

“My mother, grandparents and great-grandparents all grew up on the east side of Cortland,” Pierce said.

Pierce continued, “I had some good friends who grew up in that area. Families of the neighborhood would have gatherings (on Sundays) and the older guys taught us how to play bocce.”

Pierce had such a “good time and great memories” playing bocce back in the day that he wanted to continue the tradition by starting a bocce tournament. He also wanted to introduce it to “people who have never played it before.”

“It’s mostly about community. The mechanism of bocce brings them together,” Pierce said, who competes in the tournament with the Hyatt Street Bocce Club team.

“Whether they play or not, we’re looking forward to everyone coming out and having a good time,” he added.

Pierce created a Facebook page known as East Side Bocce Club, which provides updates on the tournament.

Pierce currently lives on Clinton Avenue. He works for the town of Dryden recreation department, adding his background in community events assisted in his idea for the bocce tournament.

He is also the varsity girls basketball coach at Marathon Central School District, and the modified football coach at Dryden Central School District.