Fun Festers turn out for Croquet at Allandale

J. H. Osborne • Jul 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Families and groups of friends squared off against each other Sunday afternoon — mallets swinging.

It was Croquet at Allandale, sponsored by BAE Systems and Friends of Allandale.

A part of the Fun Fest lineup for several years, the event typically has drawn 75 to 100 participants.

With about an hour of play time left Sunday, more than 90 people had knocked their way around one of five croquet courts set up this year, said event volunteers Rod Gemayel and Charlie Brooks.

Gemayel and Brooks had a box full of small plastic trophies. They were giving one to each group that played croquet, allowing the group to declare the winner of their particular game.

As groups passed through the event tent, claimed a trophy, and had their pictures taken, there were good-natured jokes between players about who cheated and who really won.

Gemayel said Croquet at Allandale is not a tournament. Participants are given a short rundown of basic croquet rules, then told each group that plays together can sort of decide as they go on how strictly they want to follow whatever rules they decide to enforce.

The men said they’ve seen new faces each year for Croquet at Allandale — but there’s also a healthy dose of players who’ve made the friendly competition a Fun Fest staple.

“Those kids over there, they’ve been coming together every year for a few years,” Gemayel said, pointing to a group of five playing on a back court.

It wasn’t their first year. And it wasn’t their first game — or their last — this year.

As they approached the event tent, one of the young men asked “can we play another game?”

Gemayel said OK. No one was waiting in line for a court.

“We’ve already played two games,” the young man said.

Then, a little sheepishly, “Can we have another trophy?”

Brooks and Gemayel obliged — and then some.

When they asked for a group photo to mark the occasion, the men gave each of the five a trophy to hold.

“At Fun Fest, everyone is a winner,” Kelsey Solomon said, drawing laughter from the rest of her group: Peter Ambrosetti; Andrew Butler; Michael Feliu; and a fourth young man who declined to share is name.

Solomon said the group, all in college now, began coming to the event together while in high school — and it has just become a sort of tradition.

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