Croquet Tournament: Hitting Balls for Fun and Fundraising

On a beautiful, sun-filled summer’s day, more than 120 men, women and children played croquetball for fun and raised thousands of dollars for various charities during the Westmoreland Croquet Club’s annual tournament on Sunday at Westmoreland County Community College near Washington DC. youngwood. .

The croquet club tournament, postponed from early June due to the covid pandemic, was smaller than in the past but still attracted 64 two-person teams and 25 sponsors, said Amy Dicesere, the tournament’s events coordinator.

After we had to cancel the tournament last year due to covid restrictions, “we really had to start again,” said Hempfield restaurateur Ernie Vallozzi, one of the organizers of the croquet tournament, which started in 1990.

In a “normal year” there might be 1,700-1,800 people at the tournament, but this year “we reduced the size because of the pandemic,” Vallozzi said.

Even with the reduced number of people in the crowd, “we’re putting money into the community,” probably about $30,000 to various charities through the Westmoreland County Community Foundation, Vallozzi said.

“Our mission is to support local nonprofits that have a mission to do with children, conservation and education” in Western Pennsylvania, said Robert Unkovic, a Greensburg wealth advisor and the president of Old Joe Club Charities Inc. Hempfield, who benefits from the money raised through the croquet tournament.

Through the croquet tournament that is the flagship of the fundraiser 31 years ago, they’ve raised about $1.4 million over the past seven years, said Dr. Michael Rutigliano, a committee member of Old Joe Club Charities.

David Zilli, an entertaining announcer and the principal of Greensburg Salem High School, watched from the main tent as the two-person teams were led to specific courts for their matches.

Those good people came from far and wide to raise money to compete in the croquet tournament.

Jennifer Lee came from New York City with her fiancé, Nick Rutigliano, also from New York City.

“We come for it every year,” Lee said.

Among the many helpers in the tournament who served as judges on the 12 croquet courts were about 67 National Honor Society students from Greater Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield Area and Greensburg Central Catholic High Schools, said Cheryl Harper, Greensburg Salem High School physics teacher and advisor to the National Society of Honor.

When the participants did not participate in the croquet tournament, they were able to escape the heat and enjoy parties and refreshments in the shade of some 25 tents that line the courts. The tables of food and fine wine and whiskey are reminiscent of the days of the Rolling Rock Races in Ligonier Township, where the horse races were almost a sidelight to the food and drink on display.

There was special entertainment in the Quatrini Rafferty tent, where the Greensburg law firm played a Roaring ’20s theme with Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra clarinetist Lisa Thackrah playing music from a century ago, such as “Basin Street Blues.”

“I love to play and perform,” says Thackrah, a music teacher at Christ the Divine School in Latrobe and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

Rocky Mountain drew attention, a beautiful brown house once used by the National Park Service and now owned by STAT (Southern Tier Alternative Therapies) Inc. from Cook, which uses horseback riding for its physical and occupational therapy program. It is one of five charities supported this year by the Old Joe Club Charities, through the Westmoreland County Community Foundation.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter .

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