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June 18th, 2014 MATTHEW SINGER | Summer Guide
 

Summer Guide 2014: Portland Lawn Games from Cornhole to Quidditch

A guide to the (barely) competitive Portland lawn-game scene.

sg2014_yardIMAGE: James Rexroad


Portland loves games, but it has a complicated relationship with the concept of competition. (There’s a reason one of our two major professional sports teams has matches that can end in a friggin’ tie.) No wonder, then, that lawn games are so popular here in the summer.


CORNHOLE 

How is it played? A favorite pastime of college bros, hippie bros, hillbilly bros and reclusive survivalist bros alike, cornhole involves tossing beanbags at a wooden platform with a hole cut in the top. Landing on the platform snags one point, getting the bag through the hole earns three. The first to 21 wins. Basically, it’s horseshoes for people too inebriated to be throwing hunks of metal.

Where can you play it? It’s getting to the point where you can’t throw a sack of dried grain out a window in Portland without it landing on a cornhole board. You can find boards at Landmark Saloon, the Standard and the Gladstone Street Pub (3737 SE Gladstone St., 775-3502, gladstonestreetpub.com), which hosts a league night on Wednesdays. If you missed the first annual Oregon State Cornhole Championship in Forest Grove earlier this month, don’t rip up that Dave Matthews poster in frustration just yet: Underdog Sports is holding a tournament outside the Buffalo Wild Wings (of course) at Lloyd Center on July 12 (underdogportland.com/sport/Cornhole). And if you miss that, the Cornhole Classic (thecornholeclassic.com), another one-day charity tournament, is Aug. 10 at Providence Park. Or contact Woodtek Restoration Services in Hillsboro (woodteknw.com) to order a customized board for yourself and become the most popular dude at the next String Cheese Incident tailgate.


BOCCE

How is it played? Kind of a loaded question, given the variance of specific rules and types of court it can be played on. In general terms, it involves chucking a ball the size of a grapefruit in the direction of another, smaller ball, with points awarded to whomever ends up closest after five throws. Swearing in Italian is optional but encouraged.

Where can you play it? The Portland Bocce League (portlandbocce.com) meets five nights a week during the summer at the North Park Blocks, on courts it helped fund a decade ago and continues to maintain. Registration has closed for the 2014 season, but if you’re interested in joining next year, best to start mulling over that punny team name now. (Sorry, the Ralph Boccios is already taken.)


LADDER TOSS

How is it played? Otherwise known as “hillbilly golf,” tethered balls are flung at a three-rung “ladder,” each rung representing an increasing number of points. The winner is the first to wrap their bolas around enough rungs to equal (but not exceed) 21 points. Which makes it more like “hillbilly blackjack,” but then, hillbillies ain’t too good at naming things.

Where can you play it? At the PDX Farm Fiesta (pdxfarmfiesta.com) in Damascus on Aug. 9, with all the other hillbillies.


KUBB

How is it played? Nicknamed “Viking chess,” this is a centuries-old Swedish game in which players attempt to knock over a series of wooden pillars (called kubbs) with batons, the ultimate goal being to topple the “king” kubb before the opponent. Apparently, there’s a lot more strategy involved than one might assume for an activity associated with a race of pillaging brutes, i.e., choosing the precise moment to holler like Robert Plant in “Immigrant Song.”

Where can you play it? There are no formal leagues in Portland, but the game will be taught at the Trollbacken Swedish Language and Culture Camp (trollbacken.org) in nearby Corbett this August, in case you have a child who wants to get in on the ground floor of the inevitable kubb phenomenon.


CROQUET

How is it played? In the variant most common to the United States, players use mallets to knock balls through six hoops (or “wickets”), the goal being to complete the series before your opponent. Interesting fact: The use of live flamingos and hedgehogs as playing implements was banned following the publication of Lewis Carroll’s searing 1865 exposé of the British aristocracy, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Where can you play it? If you’re into a more “formal” experience, the Portland Croquet Club plays throughout the year at Westmoreland Park (Southeast McLoughlin and Bybee boulevards). Want a game with bigger balls? Consider Mondo Croquet (mondocroquet.com). No, seriously: It’s played with bowling balls and sledgehammers. The annual “World Championship” takes place in the North Park Blocks on July 27.


PETANQUE

How is it played? A French version of bocce, it’s differentiated primarily by the use of hollow, steel boules instead of heavy plastic balls. We assume miming is also involved in some way.

Where can you play it? The Portland Petanque Club (pdxpetanque.org) plays year-round, every Sunday and Wednesday, at Westmoreland Park. There is also a club based out of Lake Oswego (lakeoswegopetanque.com), whose website warns that it is “a competitive club, not a social club.” Good thing: Who wants to socialize with a bunch of Oswegians, anyway?


LAWN BOWLING
IMAGE: Alpha

 

LAWN BOWLING

How is it played? Yet another bocce variant, played in a “rink” and with egg-shaped balls designed to roll toward the target ball in an arc.

Where can you play it? The Barefoot Bowls League (portlandlawnbowling.com) runs for six weeks at Westmoreland Park (the epicenter of Portland lawn-game leagues, apparently) beginning July 9, and is as laissez-faire as its name suggests. “There’s not many rules that matter,” reads the description on its website, “and most importantly, there’s no one who takes this too seriously.”


HORSESHOES

How is it played? Presumably developed centuries ago as a means of mocking the domesticated equine, U-shaped bars are pitched at a stake jammed into the ground and scored based on proximity to the target.

Where can you play it? Portland has 21 parks with horseshoe pits, though the best in town, according to Barry Chapelle, president of the Portland chapter of the Oregon Horseshoe Pitchers Association (pitchwithus.com/oregon), are at Laurelhurst Park (Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Stark Street), the site of two tournaments hosted by the OHPA at the end of June.


QUIDDITCH

How is it played? Derived from the “wizarding” sport described in the Harry Potter books, the real-world adaptation of the game is a bit difficult to boil down, but it combines elements of rugby, dodgeball and running around in public with a broom between your legs.

Where can you play it? Portland has its own quidditch league (pdxquidditch.tumblr.com), which meets biweekly at Fernhill Park (6010 NE 37th Ave.)—that is, when the field isn’t occupied by a game of Furrie Frolf, Care Bear Staring or Bronie Polo. 


Expert Advice: Larry Cereghino

LARRY CEREGHINO
ILLUSTRATION: Alex DeSpain
Cereghino is the Portland area’s foremost expert on bocce and a 2011 national champion. He’s a representative for the Western Sector of the U.S. Bocce Federation and a member of Club Paesano, the long-running Italian social club in Gresham.

WW: How did you get into bocce?

Larry Cereghino: Back in the ’90s, a cousin of mine, who’s a member of the Paesano Club. One day they needed a player. He knew I was a shooter in basketball, so he figured I must have a little touch. So he said, “Come out and play for these guys,” and I did. And I just started playing. He got me into the Paesano Club, and I started fixing their courts. Then all of a sudden I was playing in tournaments. Pretty soon I was starting a league. When I got involved with the [United States Bocce Federation], I actually became a populist director, and now I’m the western sector rep. I’m just kind of doing things I didn’t really want to do. After I spent 34 years coaching kids, half that time running youth programs, I just wanted to play and have a good time. It wasn’t something I went out looking for. You get in all these volunteer groups, any group, and every group has politics. The only politics in bocce should be: beer or wine? That’s the extent of it.


What’s the best court to play on in Portland?

In Portland, there isn’t any. I go to Scappoose now. You know, you can go play on the [North] Park Blocks, but they’re short courts, so you can’t shoot. I don’t like playing short courts. I wish someday we’ll get an indoor facility, or at least an outdoor facility that’s covered. 


So what’s the good part about playing bocce in Portland?

Well, I don’t play in Portland. Portland’s got really good people, and some pretty good players, but those two courts they play on downtown are not very good. They really need to find a home where they can have four or five long courts, and they don’t have to fight the basketball players. But as far as the community goes, the people who play there are super. They just need better courts.

 
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