Metro-East Living

Bocce ball is a big deal at Italian Fest

Clif Dellamano II has been organizing the Italian Fest Bocce Ball Tournament for 23 years. He’s shown here with an antique wooden set he inherited from his great-grandfather, Antone, who immigrated from Italy in the 1870s.
Clif Dellamano II has been organizing the Italian Fest Bocce Ball Tournament for 23 years. He’s shown here with an antique wooden set he inherited from his great-grandfather, Antone, who immigrated from Italy in the 1870s. dholtmann@bnd.com

The first sport Clif Dellamano II learned to play as a child wasn’t baseball, soccer or football. It was bocce ball.

Love of the sport had passed down through the generations of his Italian-American family. Dad Clifton founded Collinsville’s Italian Fest Bocce Ball Tournament in the early ’80s.

“He donated the beer and the trophies,” said Clif, 51, of Troy, noting his father was a Pabst distributor. “It was a free tournament then, and to this day, it’s still a free tournament.”

About 150 people (75 teams) register to play each year, and another 150 show up to watch their friends and family members.

“It gets bigger every year,” Clif said. “We have wives playing. We have grandfathers who play with their grandsons. We have all ages.”

Italian Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in downtown Collinsville. The Bocce Ball Tournament begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in Glidden Park.

People in both places will honor Clifton, who died of bone cancer in April at age 75.

“If it wasn’t for him, there probably wouldn’t be a bocce ball tournament,” said his son, who took over as the main organizer 23 years ago.

We guarantee that you will play two games. If you lose your first game, you move into a consolation bracket. But we’re Italian, so we call it the loser’s bracket.

Clif Dellamano on Bocce Ball Tournament

Bocce ball came to Collinsville in the 1800s with Clif’s great-grandfather, Antone, and other Italian immigrants seeking work in local coal mines.

Players earn points by throwing or rolling balls made of wood, metal or plastic and trying to get them close to a smaller ball, called a “pallino,” which is positioned first.

The Collinsville tournament is played on an open field rather than a court.

“We guarantee that you will play two games,” Clif said. “If you lose your first game, you move into a consolation bracket. But we’re Italian, so we call it the loser’s bracket.”

Clif gets organized with help from cousin Pat Dellamano and friend Jay Albertina. Local businesses donate beer, soda, hot dogs and chips. Chuck “The Sign Guy” Vollman brings Italian meats and cheeses to share.

“It’s a family event, and it’s in a park,” Clif said. “It’s just a nice day. My son (Cortlan) played last year for the first time with his mom (Carrie), and he was 8.”

This year’s Italian Fest theme is Spettacolo Italiano, roughly translated as “Italian Show.” Portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets will be closed to vehicles.

Clubs and organizations will sell Italian food, ranging from bagna cauda to toasted ravioli, Italian beef to cannoli.

“It’s really become Collinsville’s homecoming,” said Wendi Valenti, executive director of Collinsville Chamber of Commerce. “That’s where people reconnect with friends and old acquaintances.”

The parade will kick off at 4 p.m. Saturday at Main and Hesperia and go east on Main, north on Seminary and west on Clay, ending at Combs. The theme is Italian Sports Cars.

Volunteer Annette Graebe has arranged for a handful of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other cars to be driven in the parade.

That display is being planned in conjunction with “Italian Sports Cars: Built for Speed,” an exhibit at Collinsville Memorial Public Library that will run through Oct. 22.

Also at the library, the Italian film “The Legendary Giulia” will be screened at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 in Italian with English subtitles.

“People who come early will get a free sample of gelato, courtesy of Spiritos, the Italian store on Main Street,” Annette said.

Italian Fest will feature two stages with live music, including ’80s rock ‘n’ roll by Johnny Rock-itt on Friday night and rock, country and dance music by the Well Hungarians on Saturday night.

Other activities include a 5K Run/Walk and Kids Fun Run, a Grape Stomp, Diaper Dash, Parisian Pedal Push (nighttime bike ride), dance and martial arts demonstrations, a children’s area and Collinsville fire station open house.

New this year, Climb for PSTD will sponsor a climbing wall.

“All the proceeds will go to an organization that helps not only veterans but first responders suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder),” Wendi said.

Limited parking is available downtown, but organizers encourage people to ride a free Madison County Transit shuttle from Dorris Intermediate School, 1841 Vandalia.

This year’s festival chairman is the Rev. David Amsden, pastor of Navigation Church, who formerly served as parade coordinator.

“We’ve got some good bands,” he said. “The parade is always great. There will be a ton of food. I didn’t invent any new wheels. My goal was to make this a great Italian Fest, just like it has been in the past.”

At a glance

  • What: Italian Fest
  • Where: Downtown Collinsville (portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets closed to vehicles)
  • When: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Admission: Free
  • Parade: 4 p.m. Saturday (begins at Main and Hesperia, goes east on Main, north on Seminary and west on Clay, ending at Combs)
  • Children’s area: Opens at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Parking: Try your luck downtown or ride a free Madison County Transit shuttle from Dorris Intermediate School, 1841 Vandalia
  • Information: Call 618-344-2884 or visit www.italianfest.net

Italian Fest schedule

FRIDAY

  • 11 a.m. Opening ceremony on Venezia Stage
  • 11 a.m. Children’s Area open at Main and Clinton
  • Noon Grape Stomp on Venezia Stage
  • 2 p.m. Music by Flipside on Milano Stage
  • 1:30 p.m. Music by Italian Community Band on Venezia Stage
  • 4:30 p.m. Music by Babaloo on Venezia Stage
  • 4:30 p.m. 5K Run packet pickup next to Wine Garden
  • 5:30 p.m. Performance by Gracefully Yours Dance Studio on Milano Stage
  • 6 p.m. Derrick Keith, Your Local Voice at Progress Beer Stand
  • 6:30 p.m. Music by Johnny Rock-itt on Venezia Stage
  • 7:30 p.m. Music by Shotgun Creek on Milano Stage
  • 10:30 p.m. Festival closes

SATURDAY

  • 6:30 to 7:45 a.m. 5K Run/Walk registration at Main and Seminary
  • 8 a.m. 5K Run/Walk starts at Clay and Clinton
  • 9 a.m. Kids Fun Run on Main Street
  • 10 a.m. Bocce Ball Tournament begins at Glidden Park (registration begins at 9) and runs all day
  • 11 a.m. Children’s Area open at Main and Clinton
  • 11 a.m. Music by Jeremy Drake on Milano Stage
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Collinsville fire station open house
  • Noon Diaper Dash at Main and Clinton (registration begins at 11)
  • 2 p.m. Music by Matt Powell on Milano Stage
  • 3 p.m. McArther’s Tae Kwon Do Demonstration Team on Venezia Stage
  • 4 p.m. Italian Fest Parade begins at Main and Clay
  • 5:30 p.m. Premier Martial Arts Demonstration Team on Milano Stage
  • 6:30 p.m. Music by Incognito on Milano Stage
  • 6:30 p.m. Music by Well Hungarians on Venezia Stage
  • 10:30 p.m. Festival closes
  • 11:59 p.m. Paisan Pedal Push begins in library parking lot (registration from 10:30 to 11:30)
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