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Bocce players put on their game faces.

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More than 80 teams from the Midwest and Canada come to town this weekend for the 24th-annual Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. Organizers at the Wickliffe Italian-American Club have a little surprise for players: They assembled roofs over six of the seven courts. “When you have so many people coming in from out of state, it’s frustrating to let the weather determine whether or not we’re going to play,” says spokesman Pat Del Freo. “Now they know when they leave home -- rain or shine -- we’re going to play.”

Four-man squads compete for a trophy and a $5,000 cash prize. The three-day tourney is set up in bracket form -- with winners advancing through a half-dozen rounds till one team claims victory on Sunday. “The guys in these clubs have been playing year-round,” says Del Freo. “There’s a lot of strategy involved. This is more than just throwing some balls down the court.” Besides three days of games, spectators can chow down on homemade Italian food and meet Jungle Terry and his menagerie of wild animals. “Get something to eat,” advises Del Freo, “and watch some of the best bocce in the Midwest.”
Fri., Aug. 24, 6 p.m.; Aug. 25-26, 9 a.m.

Speaking of Highlights

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