We're told constantly that strong neighborhoods are the backbone of our communities.
I was reminded how true that is last Sunday when the All-Terrain Bocce Golf Open was held on Brockton Road.
For the uninitiated (and I think there might be many) all-terrain bocce golf is the invention of Brockton Road's own Tim Folger. A longtime educator in the Buckeye Local School District before his retirement, Folger developed the game about 12 years ago. It's played used bocce balls (don't call about the spelling - that's the version Folger has chosen to use) that are tossed (underhanded, of course) at a series of stakes (18, of course) that are placed in yards (front and back) of houses throughout the neighborhood.
Enjoyable in its own right, the game also provides the best kind of exercise - the kind that is disguised as fun.
Its season never ends - rounds have been played on spring and fall afternoons, in the sweltering heat of summer, in the middle of drenching rains, during thunderstorms and even in the dead of winter, when the balls have been tossed across the frozen tundra of Brockton Road.
Once a year, a big tournament is organized - for many years, it was known as the masters, and the winner received a bowling ball that had been painted green and was presented with a green heat-retardant-coated jacket that had many years ago somehow been removed from one of the mills operated by either the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. or the Weirton Steel Corp.
Bocce golf may have been born on Brockton Road, but the site of the annual tournament has changed many times through the years.
Participants have battled it out on the wide-open spaces along Fernwood Road, a devilishly long course in Bloomingdale, a course laid out through a serene neighborhood off of Bantam Ridge Road and a surprisingly tricky course that was established in the friendly confines of Snug Harbor.
This year's layout was deceptively challenging and had holes placed in nine yards on either side of Brockton, near its intersection with Bryden Road.
While the format of the tournament has changed -it's been dropped from 36 holes to 18, renamed the open and now includes women - the idea behind it has not. It's a chance to enjoy the company of your neighbors, old friends and new friends and just plain relax a little while enjoying a little friendly competition in a game that was designed to be played by everyone, from teenagers to those in their mid-70s. Among the participants in this year's tournament were several educators (current and former), a Steubenville police captain, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service, a nurse, a construction engineer, a social worker and even a couple of people who make their livings in the newspaper business - including Folger's nephew, Rick Charmoli, who works for the Cadillac (Mich.) News.
Afterward, participants and nonparticipants sat down and enjoyed a traditional summertime feast - this year's included grilled hot dogs and lots of homemade salads and desserts.
Oh yes ... the annual tournament is a competition, and, just for the record, let it be known that Audrey Charmoli (Rick's wife) won the women's division and Bill Davis of Belvedere won the men's division.
Their wins capped an afternoon of outdoor fun and just enjoying the company of family, friends and neighbors - something that we should never forget to do, no matter how hectic our lives become.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)