History of Pétanque in the Northwest

History of Pétanque in the Northwest
by John Hunt

Some 30 years ago in Provence, my son and I sat in a park to watch an interesting game one afternoon. Our interest drove us to buy a dozen boules the next day, to play the game of pétanque at home. The next few years it was a game occasionally played on summer weekends with family and friends, later with a business associate, Joel G., before he went on sabbatical with his family in a Provençale village.

Joel returned from Provence enthusiastic for the game; in 1995 he noticed an advertisement for a Bastille Day Pique-nique et Pétanque, sponsored by the Alliance Française and the French-American Chamber of Commerce (F-ACC) of the Pacific Northwest.  Joel and I entered and won that tournament, after which I unwisely criticized the ground we had to play on.  Jack Cowan of the F-ACC promptly nominated me to be in charge of the next year’s tournament – a job which has been mine by default for the last 18 years!

I gathered names and addresses from Jack and started sending out invitations for Sunday play at the Bellevue Downtown Park, where wide paths were suitably surfaced for playing pétanque. Passers-by and friends joined in, drawing enough players for several games on Sundays; we informally called ourselves the “Seattle Club de Pétanque”. Some of us carpooled to tournaments in Vancouver, Surrey and Whistler, B.C. One in Surrey was won by Henri Jouval, a jovial Marseillais, self-described “fana(tique) de la pétanque” and occasional winner at Bastille Day.

Meanwhile, the F-ACC was also organizing similar Picnic/Pétanque celebrations in Portland. A couple of Portland players, Joe Martin and Jim van Dyke, came to play in our tournament, starting about 1999. They soon invited me down to Portland to take a look at places to play and discuss how to organize tournaments. Very soon, Joe found a very large but derelict “practice area” at the Portland Lawn Bowling Club. They quickly sublet it, improved it and started a formal club, affiliated with the Federation of Pétanque – USA (FPUSA). Joe was soon urging us to start an official club in Seattle, but Seattle players demurred for a while, instead joining the Portland Pétanque Club and carpooling to their tournaments in 2002-3.

In 2004 and 2005, informal play and the annual tournaments in Seattle (now named by the F-ACC after the recently deceased “fana,” Henri Jouval) were attracting more weekend players. In 2005 we formed a formal FPUSA club. In following years, founding members Marvin and Sally moved to Walla Walla, starting a club there. Founding member Rodney, with two enthusiastic participants in the Jouval tournament, Mike and Michelle, started the Edmonds Pétanque Club. Regular carpools have, for several years, allowed our members to attend tournaments in Walla Walla, Portland and Eugene, as well as informal play in Republic and Port Townsend. A Port Townsend club started in 2012. In 2014, the first FPUSA Regional Tournament (Northwest Region Doubles Championship) was held at Edmonds, with Seattle Pétanque sponsoring.

Pétanque is booming in the Northwest!

Article written in November 2013