Pall Bearers

Italians and others break out the bocce balls.

A bocce contestant keeps his eye on the pallino.
A bocce contestant keeps his eye on the pallino.

As captain of the J.J. Litehouse Restaurant team from Sharon, Pennsylvania, Don Bochert boasts of the gold-plated trophy his squad won at last year's LakeTran Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. But tournament tradition calls for the reigning champ to return the four-foot cup the following year. "We've been glad to have it for a year," says Bochert. "And we're going to try to hang onto it for another."

Their chance comes this weekend, when more than 70 four-man teams from as far away as Ontario compete on six courts. The game, which originated in Italy, is played with eight brown balls called palls and a smaller white ball dubbed a pallino, which is tossed down the court to start a match. Players then roll the palls to see which stops closest to the pallino. Nothing pleases Bochert more than trouncing the once-dominant Canadians.

"They used to pick on us for being better," he says. "We don't let them do that anymore."

Ballin' is from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Wickliffe Italian & American Club, 29717 Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe. Admission is free; call 440-944-2433. -- Cris Glaser

Row Your Boat
Scullers ready for action.

SAT 8/1

From Kelly Blazek's vantage point on the Cuyahoga River, the best seat in the house to watch Saturday's Summer Rowing League Final Races is on the Carter Road bridge in the Flats. "It's scenic and photographic," says Blazek, a sculler with the Western Reserve Rowing Association. "Maybe people will get inspired and row with us next year. Even if you've never touched an oar before, we'll have you rowing." That is, after you fork over the $275 membership fee that includes boat rental, lessons, and a team T-shirt. With more than 450 rowers, the group races every weekend from April to August. But bring along your first-aid kit. "A new coxswain didn't steer her boat right [one year] and rammed right into the wall," recalls Blazek. "It's almost as good as NASCAR." Races run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cleveland Rowing Foundation Boathouse, 1948 Carter Road. It's free to watch; for more info, call 216-621-9772. -- Cris Glaser

Mountain Men
Riders get their only chance on CVNP's trails this weekend.

SUN 8/28

At Sunday's Big Valley Race in Peninsula, local mountain bikers will finally have an opportunity to pedal Cuyahoga Valley National Park's single-track dirt trails. The eight-mile course -- considered the state's premier mountain-bike competition -- is the only race of its kind in the area and the only chance all year for riders to tackle CVNP's paths. The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association hopes to hit those trails more often in the future. "[We're not] going to go away," says President Bill Braum. "The need for single-track dirt trails in the urban Cleveland area has to be addressed." Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. at Camp Manatoc, 1065 Truxell Road in Peninsula. Fee is $30. Visit for more info. -- Chris Miller

Set Your Alarm Extra Early

FRI 8/26

Keep your eyes on the road Friday, because it's Bike to Work Day. "More than half of all Americans live less than five miles from where they work," says Lois Moss, a member of Cleveland Bikes, which hosts the event. "More of us should be using our bicycles for transportation." Free coffee will greet riders at Mall A (on St. Clair Avenue downtown) between 7:30 and 9 a.m.; call 440-519-0013. -- Lucy McKernan