CHESTERTOWN — Ye Olde Town Bocce League began its seventh fall season last week after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league started in 2013 when Frank Hurst was approached by Chestertown’s Recreation Commission about ways to get the community active and involved.
Hurst, who had been planning to start a bocce league when he retired, was encouraged not to wait. He set up a table at the Chestertown Farmers Market expecting to get “a couple dozen” people signed up.
There were 66 players on 10 teams that first fall season.
This season, there are 50 teams comprised of over 400 players.
“It’s been lovely to see it grow,” Frank Hurst said in an interview on his porch Friday, Sept. 10.
Many teams are made up of neighbors, families and friends from organizations like Washington College, the Garfield Center for the Arts, Chestertown town council and more. Others, though, consist of players who signed up without a specific team and had never met before.
Hurst said it was really satisfying to watch those groups bond over the course of the season and become friends.
“I don’t think we’ve had our first marriage yet,” Hurst said.
The majority of players are retirees, but at least one-third are younger adults.
Hurst said it was nice to see the interactions between the generations when teams play one another.
Hurst said he was not surprised to have such a large turnout this year, citing a “pent up desire” to get out and do something with other people.
He was, however, surprised by the number of new teams this season, of which there are six.
During the fall season, games are played either on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in Wilmer Park by the water. Because there are not official, permanent courts, the league ropes off courts in the grass.
Hurst called Wilmer park a “beautiful setting” for bocce.
This past Tuesday, 26 of the teams played their week two games with spectators, tables of snacks and lots of smiles.
This season will run for six weeks, followed by Bocce Fest — a large party for the teams complete with food and drinks and the championship game.
Ye Olde Town Bocce League is not run by the Town of Chestertown.
Hurst said bocce is the only entity whose executive board includes not only a standard treasurer, rule master, coordinator and co-chair in charge of scheduling, but also a chief meteorologist and chief musicologist.
Following the fall season, there will be a spring season. Spring games are held on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 6 p.m. in Wilmer Park.
The spring season will conclude with a Bocce Ball similar to Bocce Fest, complete with food and drinks and the championship game.
There is a $10 per person per season registration fee. Players must be 18 years old or older to play.
A full list of bocce rules as well as the league’s rules on player eligibility and teams can be found on their website, chestertownbocce.org/rules/.
Hurst said there are two requisites for bocce, which are being able to “hold a ball in one hand and a beverage in the other and remembering which one to throw.”