It’s Your Turn: The Traditional Game Festival in Verona

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In Verona,  sports are treated a little differently from the same ‘ol – same ‘ol American football, basketball and baseball games. International Festival of Street GameTocatì  is a truly unique festival, both in Italy and throughout other places in Europe.  Its objective is to instill a rich sense of history and tradition by reviving  the old traditional street games that were around before Atari made the scene.    The event is a grand and happy festival that affords occasion for comparison and action.   It doesn’t simply represent games, but teaches people to understand them, meet the players, interview the older players who have been around for awhile and to keep an oral  alive, and to learn the game rules and construction techniques.  There is food and art and music and a happy, lively crowd!

For many reasons, this festival in Italy reminds me of a book that philosopher David Abram wrote, called, “The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World,”  in which he addresses the issue of oral tradition.  Abram talks about how, in America, for example, many Native American skills that had been passed down from generation to generation, were lost when the printing press was invented.  People started reading rather than passing their traditions along to the next generation, so in a sense, these games in Verona have a very important sociological significance in that respect.

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For the festival, the entire historic district  of Verona is turned into a gigantic playground that includes the river, Verona square and the adjoining alleyways.  Signs with a pointing boy bedecked in a folded paper hat, can be seen throughout the festival.  The brightly colored signs are used to point spectators to the next game.

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More than 50 of them are installed about the grounds.  This festival is a family affair where the young  (or young at heart, such as myself) can  learn how to use a sling,  throw a spinning top or compete in the tip cat tournaments.  I’m a pretty good top spinner, actually, having made a wooden top one of my favorite childhood toys after a visit from a man from the Whamo! toy manufacturing company visited my school.  Tops and yoyos were very big back then.  I now appreciate their simplicity and attribute them to my not letting my own kids go overboard with the video games when they were younger.  That is a decision that I do not regret, because they are all thinkers and conversationalists who know how to use their hands and their minds and who communicate well.

One of the main games in Verona is Tip Cat.  There are many different variations of this game,  but it is basically a pastime that  consists of tapping a short billet of wood with a large bat-type stick.  There are as many rules as there are versions of this game, but it is old fashioned, charming and non-electronic!   Here is an old Italian etching of a Tip Cat game in progress that I found:

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And here is a youngster playing the game today.  Not much difference at all, actually.

There is something about the spirit of Verona and the charm of going back in time to carry on the traditions of these types of games.  I like that.  Oh….and speaking of charm, I am off to meet a handsome silver-haired stranger who promises me some traditional storytelling that I can take back home with me, David Abram style!  (or art style….which I shall upload when my proposed project has been completed…)

Have a great day, everyone!

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