Play bocce ball! Northern Kentucky mayors gather for a Newport Italianfest tradition at Pompilios

NEWPORT, Ky. - On a day when the rain and clouds disappeared by late afternoon, Pompilios Restaurant  hosted more than 15 elected or appointed officials in shirt sleeves or ties on two soil courts for bocce ball. About 30 spectators drank in the action.

For Ken Rankle, mayor of Dayton, Ky., the annual bocce ball game at Pompilios is the only time he plays the sport. And, on June 11, the Dayton defeated Bellevue in the finals.

“It brings the river city mayors together and contributes to bonding,” he said. “We act as a bigger group. We can’t survive without each other."

Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso said bocce ball is the first of many events that happen during Italianfest weekend, which runs through June 15.

“It is a great opportunity to have fun with the surrounding cities,” he noted.

In 1991, Peluso and Tom Guidugli (former Newport mayor) recognized the need in the community for a family event celebrating the region’s cultural history and established Italianfest. Attended by an average of 100,000 visitors, the four-day festival in its 23rd year features authentic Italian cuisine, children’s games, fireworks display and live Italian music performed by noted Italian artists such as Moreno Fruzetti, a singer who came to the United States on a cruise ship.

Bocce ball at Pompilios

Dating back to the Roman Empire, bocce ball  made its way to America with the influx of Italian immigrants in the early 20th Century. Pompilios picked up the game in 1991, establishing leagues and naming the courts in memory of Carmen Argento, the eatery's late co-owner.

Mayor Bill Rachford of Alexandria, attended the bocce ball showdown for the third time.

“It is a good time to socialize and see people,” he said. “This is the biggest crowd I remember."

People just show up and play. The event has gone from six to eight teams, and everyone is competitive, according to Guidugli, current Italianfest chair. 

You can still get in on Newport Italianfest!

  • Sunday: Noon to 9:00 p.m.
  • Newport Riverfront
  • Website
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