Ten new playing courts for the popular French game of Petanque are the newest addition to Augusta’s Mill Park.

Officials had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and mini-tournament on June 5th to unveil the courts, built to meet international competition standards.

Petanque (pronounced Pay-Tanhk) is popular in France, where an estimated 17 million people play. It’s played on gravel with “boules” or metal balls, in parks and in neighborhoods throughout the country.

In Augusta, the Petanque courts were the idea of Raymond Fecteau, who was introduced to the game during visits to France. He led the fundraising effort for the $18,000 project.

The game can be traced back to 6th century Greece. Romans brought a version of the game to France during their occupation there, and the French modified the game from stone balls to wooden balls. It was the French who crated boules by using wooden balls with nails driven in them for added weight. Eventually, they developed the steel balls used today.

Fecteau said he hoped the courts would be used for both recreational and competitive games.

“I’ve taken 11 trips to France since 1979,” he says. “I began to think the game we enjoyed playing in France might be enjoyed by people in Maine,” he says.

It’s fitting to have the popular French game played in the park, which has special meaning to many Franco-Americans in the region. Mill Park, overlooking the Kennebec River, sits on land  where the former Augusta cotton mill stood before it burned down about 20 years ago. Many generations of Franco-American families worked there before the fire.

Fecteau, past president of Augusta’s Le Club Calumet and an enthusiastic Petanque player, built a court at his Augusta home about three years ago. With interest from friends he met with Augusta city officials to create the park courts.

“I wondered if interest would grow once we had more courts,” he says. Now he’s hopeful that if the park courts are popular, they could attract international Petangue tournaments.

An International Petanque Federation includes more than 600,000 players in 52 countries. There are about 20,000 players in Quebec, according to Fecteau.

For more information, contact Fecteau [email protected]