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Mystic River Press - October 2004
Not Your Grandfather's Croquet
By Gregory C. Benoit
Mystic River Press
NORTH STONINGTON—Croquet. It's a sedate lawn game, played on Sunday afternoons in your grampa's back yard while waiting for the burgers to cook. Sort of an old fashioned old fogy game, like shuffleboard or badminton.
Oh, so wrong!
This is the age of extremes. Nothing is done halfway anymore; this is the “be all you can be, go for the gusto, reach out and touch somebody” age of extreme sports, and nothing is the way it used to be. Including croquet.
Welcome to extreme croquet. Better wear a hardhat; steel-toed boots are optional.
Extreme croquet bears a few similarities to traditional croquet. For instance, it involves hitting hard wooden balls through metal wickets using a mallet that resembles—in a distant cousin sort of way—a short polo mallet.
But take a closer look at the mallet. You'll notice that the head is encased in metal. It's heavy. On some, one end looks like a scoop, designed evidently for scooping croquet balls—yours for good shots, someone else's for mean ones.
And the course—we've got a few differences there, too. You'll quickly note that you're not on grampa's front lawn anymore. No, you're probably slogging around in a swamp or skipping across a brook or dodging a hidden cow patty. This is more like obstacle croquet, croquet in the wild.
Croquet gone wild. For one thing, it's a trifle more aggressive than grampa's croquet. When you land your ball next to an opponent's ball, you get to “send him.” In this game, you really send him. We're talking the next county here. But let's be honest: that's the way you've always wanted to play it anyway.
That is probably the biggest difference in extreme croquet: the attitudes of the players. Laughter is the constant here—loud, raucous laughter, well mixed with some healthy heckling and good-natured mockery.
Playing extreme croquet is like getting together with college chums to let off some steam between exams. Which is, essentially, how the game got started.
It was New Year's eve 1984, and Bob Warseck of West Hartford was celebrating with friends.
“After the ball dropped [in Times Square],” Warseck remembers, “we didn't have anything else to do, so we decided to go outside and play some croquet.”
On New Year's day. At two in the morning. In snow.
“Yeah, there were a few inches of snow on the ground. We piled it up and set candles on top of the piles and played by that light. Then a fog came rolling in and it was like playing in a lighthouse.”
Since then, Warseck and others have continued playing the game, refining rules as they go, and the game has gradually caught on in popularity.
Lee Paradis, a member of North Stonington's Lions Club, was sitting in a doctor's office last spring, doing what we all do in doctors' offices—“waiting and waiting and waiting.” Desperate, she picked up a copy of Smithsonian Magazine and began reading about some crazy guys from Connecticut who had invented a new form of croquet.
“We wanted to do a fund-raiser,” Paradis explains, referring to the Lions' Club, “but we were looking for something different, something really fun but with a twist.”
Extreme croquet was just that: both really fun and just a trifle twisted. So she contacted the Connecticut Extreme Croquet Society, and they have agreed to run a tournament at the North Stonington fairgrounds on the first Sunday in October.
“We selected the fairgrounds,” says Paradis, “because of the wide variety and challenge of the terrain there.”
The games will be great fun, and they'll also be raising money to make the town's recreational facilities safer and more available to residents. At present, there is a public recreation area behind the firehouse and the schools' playing fields near Wheeler, but there is no direct access connecting the two. The Lions' Club hopes to raise enough money from the croquet event to build a walkway between, so families can enjoy the recreational areas without having to deal with Route 2 traffic.
The games will be held on October 2 beginning at 9 a.m. Teams of six will compete over five separate croquet courses, and many prizes will be awarded—meaningful and valuable prizes, such as the "iron man" trophy, an old worn-out iron mounted on a wooden block.
Mystic River Press will have a team there. And we're not leaving without a trophy!
For further information, contact Lee Paradis at 535-8298.
An eXtremely Successful Fundraiser
The North Stonington Lions Club featured a day of eXtreme Croquet this past Sunday at the fair grounds, raising money to build a walkway which will connect the town's recreation facilities. The croquet was played in rather unusual settings, as can be seen here: cow barns, gravel pits, and tough terrain were the order of the day. The Lions Club raised approximately $2,000 at the event, and the Mystic River Press came away with a trophy for first place in the media division, while our own Peter Griggs took high score in that division.
Originally published in the Mystic River - October 2004
Article Copyright © Gregory C. Benoit, Mystic River PressUsed with permission.
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