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Player Nicholas Jagneaux, center, tosses the boule during a game of petanque in 2018 at Girard Park in Lafayette. The 11th annual Acadiana Petanque Festival begins Wednesday in Lafayette and other Louisiana cities. 

The 11th annual International Acadiana Petanque Festival returns to Louisiana this week with events scheduled across Louisiana.

The event, which started Wednesday and ends March 23, will be an educational celebration of the French game, also called bocce or boules, from its roots to the French language. Events will be held across in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Thibodaux and will include lessons with French immersion programs led by former boules lysonnaise world champion Bernard Champey and a delegation from the French Ministry of Sport.

"This is the second year they're going to be bringing people from the French Ministry of Sport," said Michael LeBlanc, club captain for La Coule Cadienne de Lafayette, a petanque club helping put on the event. "It's like if we sent Babe Ruth to China in the 1930s to teach Chinese kids how to play baseball. It's a big deal. They don't go anywhere else in the United States but here."

LeBlanc said the delegation will visit the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and also visit four Acadiana schools to teach French immersion students the game and a bit of the language. A game is also scheduled at Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville on Saturday.

"One of the world champions in the petanque world is coming in," said Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of Lafayette Travel. "It's great to see the sport embraced each year, and it adds to Lafayette's reputation as an international community."

An open tournament will be held March 23 at Girard Park. The event attracts 30-60 players from various teams across the country, including French Legation Boules Club and the Nelson Ranch Petanque Club, both from Austin, and other clubs from as far as California.

"You never know how many people are coming, but it's a good thing that it's small," LeBlanc said. "We spend a lot of time every year getting this just right. It's not Festival Acadiens et Creoles — it's an itty bitty event — but it's still first class."

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Follow Dan Boudreaux on Twitter, @dan_boudreaux

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