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Bastille Day: Games, Sand & Car-free fun in Brooklyn

One of the most exciting days of the year in Brooklyn is when Bar Tabac trucks in mounds of sand to hold its annual Pétanque Tournament. Now in its seventh year, over 80 teams flew in from all over the world to compete (the game is very similar to bocce) and the streets are opened to pedestrian life.

It's not just the action and attraction of the tournament that makes it special. People lounge about, eat great culinary delights, kids skateboard, friends play foosball, and listen to great music - the kinds of things that we need to happen more to make the sometimes hectic, noisy streets of NYC more palatable. If livable streets advocates are looking for a good model of what draws people to an event, look no further.

 

Nick Grossman:  [00:00] We are here at Smith Street in Brooklyn at the Bastille Day festival and Petanque Tournament, and it’s awesome. 

 

Christophe Chambers:  [00:06] We’re celebrating Bastille Day, a day ahead of the actual date, which is July 14th.  We always do it on the closest Sunday of the actual date, and it’s about fun, it’s about petanque, it’s about rica, it’s about conviviality and fun.  We started in 2002 and we’ve been going since then.  80 teams, three players each, they play three games to qualify.  If they qualify they go up quarters, semi-final and final.  Well if there was car traffic we would not be doing it.  There will be some damage, liabilities.  We do not want that.  We just want to have fun.  So the Committee Board help us, they get the permit from everybody in the city who’s doing very nice with us.  The precinct is doing a great job for us.  The Fire Department who loves it, they’re up the block.  Our restaurant, Bar Tabac, is a French neighbourhood bistro, and I think they’re all welcome to our place.  They come often, they come all the time so every year they wait for the event, every year.  They love it. 

 

Nick Grossman:  [01:13] You got all of the shops and restaurants putting out stands and food.  You got the local skate shops sponsoring a little skating competition, and of course you’ve got the Petanque Tournament. 

 

Francesca Kaplan:  [01:23] If you look at how little space this actually is and how much is actually here, and all the kids that are here.  I mean I’m a kid person and the fact that there are all these kids that get to be in an event, that there are families and everybody in the neighbourhood gets to be involved in them.  It’s just amazing.  Probably the best event that happens on Smith Street in this neighbourhood all year. 

 

Nick Grossman:  [01:43] It’s really amazing to see how little public space it takes to throw an event that thousands of people can come to.  You know earlier this morning there were 20 cars parked along the street and traffic coming through, and now you’ve got a huge number of people here enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  It’s very spectacular.   

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  • http://petanqueamericaopen.blogspot.com Philippe

    Great video!!
    Thanks a lot for the exposure you're giving to the game.
    As you said - amazing how little public space can attract so many people for a good time. Hoping other streets around the country follow the example.

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