When Kevin Domingue purchased a home in Freetown in January 2018, he didn't want to get a lawnmower to care for such a small yard.
That's why he decided to transform the space behind his house into a pétanque court. He's been practicing on his home court this week for the 11th annual International Acadiana Pétanque Festival, which kicked off March 13 and culminates with a competition at Girard Park on Saturday.
His team took home the second-place prize last year.
"The guy who beat us is the French ministry official of sports, Jean-Yves Peronnet," Domingue said. "So I don't feel too bad about that."
Domingue has played pétanque — the classic French picnic game that's similar to the Italian game of bocce — since he was a child.
"My dad got me a set when I was younger," Domingue said. "He was very active in promoting Lafayette's culture and history, and that's how I originally got into pétanque. I guess I've kept playing it since I don't play golf. It's sort of like golf in that it's a kind of social game you can play while talking to friends."
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The game has made a bit of a comeback locally in recent years because of the festival and installation of courts at Girard Park.
"It's not growing necessarily," said Mike LeBlanc, a co-organizer of the festival. "But I think we've planted the seed, and I think people will be playing pétanque here 100 years from now. They'll be playing, and they won't know why exactly. That's my hope anyway."
LeBlanc hopes to keep pétanque alive because it keeps Acadiana connected to its French roots.
"We get little traditions and big traditions from France," LeBlanc said. "We get the French language and diplomacy and social side from their great civilization. But we also get these little traditions — the way we cook our rice for jambalaya, for example, and the way we play pétanque by letting the person who's not winning go ahead of the person who is winning. These little traditions tie us into the French culture."
Domingue's backyard is a direct reflection of the little tradition. It's a space where he can not only practice the sport but also spend time with friends and family.
His backyard court is a bit smaller than the standard size of 50 feet long by 13 feet wide.
Domingue hired a contractor to take care of the project, which involved ripping out the grass and replacing it with 8 cubic yards of limestone, but he said it's something that could easily be done by a homeowner.
Or you could forgo the court altogether. The game is often played in grassy parks, on roads or even along tree roots.
"It's a very, very easy game to play," Domingue said. "The rules are very simple. But there's a lot of strategy that can go into it."
The game involves teams — typically two against two or three against three — throwing large, metal balls as close as possible to a small ball known as a cochonnet.
Domingue won't share much about his strategy ahead of Saturday's match. One thing he's willing to share?
"Boule devant, boule d'argent" — a popular French saying that means a ball in front is a ball made of money.
Want to learn more? Attend the 11th annual International Acadiana Pétanque Tournament, which happens from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Girard Park, 500 Girard Park Drive. You can also swing by the park at 4 p.m. the second and fourth Sunday of each month to play with the local club, La Boule Cadienne de Lafayette. Visit petanquelafayette.org for more information.