Bowling without boundaries

July 24, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Participants during Morgan County Fair's first road-bowling event this Saturday will have it a little easy.

There won't be any barbed wire or cow pastures to traverse if their ball goes off the road. Plus, most of the 1.5-mile course in Cacapon Resort State Park is either flat or downhill.

Morgan County Fair organizers added the Irish sport as a kickoff event this Saturday, in addition to the 5-K run/walk at the park in the morning.

In road bowling, there are no pins, and the ball, or "bowl," as it's called, is a 28-ounce small-bore cannonball. The lane is the road and the gutter, well, it's everything off the road, including grass, brush and creeks.


The game is scored like golf, with the low number winning. The object is for team members to take turns throwing the bowl along the course. The winning team is the one that gets the bowl from start to finish with the fewest throws, said Mary Wolfe, co-chairwoman for the event.

If the bowl goes off the road, it is placed on the road at a point roughly equal to the bowl's forward progress. Wolfe said this happens a lot.

"You know the ball is going to go off the road. It's a matter of tracking it," Wolfe said.

History of road bowling

Irish road bowling dates to the late 17th century and was a popular sport among Irish soldiers, according to David Powell, co-founder of the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association. The group's Web site is at

Powell, who has checked with Irish and Civil War historians, said his research indicates it's likely that Civil War soldiers of Irish descent played the game in West Virginia during downtime.

The 23rd Illinois Infantry Volunteers, also known as Mulligan's Irish Brigade, built Fort Mulligan near Petersburg, W.Va., in 1863, Powell said. The brigade played lawn or road bowling in Chicago where they trained before coming to West Virginia.

Powell also learned of a road bowling-sized cannonball that was dug up at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield near Summersville, W.Va. That, he said, indicated those cannonballs were probably plentiful in the area for bowling during the Civil War.

A new W.Va. tradition

The West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association first held a road bowling event in 1995 in Ireland, W.Va. Since 2003, there has been a state Irish road bowling tour. A location in Morgan County was added this year, Powell said.

The biggest event is held in March at the Irish Spring Festival in Ireland, W.Va., with more than 200 bowlers participating in recent years, Powell said.

Wolfe was among a group who attended the March bowl and had a blast.

It's a fun way to spend some time with friends or family, get some walking exercise and deal with the humorous situations that can crop up, said the group that went in March.

For instance, if the bowl rolls through the grass, down a hill and into a field or creek, you go after it.

There are two bridges over creeks to cross on Saturday's course.

If you go ...

WHAT: Irish road bowling

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26. Rain or shine.

WHERE: Cacapon Resort State Park, 818 Cacapon Lodge Drive, south of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

COST: $5 fee for ball will be refunded when ball is returned. No advanced registration. To play, just show up. Teams of three to four people, with at least one adult per team. Players must be 12 or older. Top three-person and four-person teams earn prizes.

DIRECTIONS: From Hagerstown, take Interstate 70 west to Hancock. Take the second Hancock exit, heading south on U.S. 522. Go through Berkeley Springs and continue south for about 10 miles. Cacapon Resort State Park will be on the right. After entering the park, take the second left, past the tennis courts to the nature center.

CONTACT: For more information, call 304-258-8400.

Morgan County Fair highlights

Kick Off to Fair Week on Saturday, July 26

o 8 a.m., Morgan County Fair 5K run/walk, Cacapon Resort State Park. Entry fee is $17; $30 for the entire family (both include T-shirt for participants). Kids fun run is $2, plus $7 for T-shirt.

o 1:30 p.m., Irish road bowling, Cacapon Resort State Park. $5 fee for ball will be refunded when ball is returned.

o 8 to 11 p.m. Dance with Tri-State Big Band and Flashbacks at the Country Inn, Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Tickets are $20 per person in advance; $25 at the door. For tickets, stop by the Morgan County Extension Office, 129 Fairfax St., Berkeley Springs, or call 304-258-8400.

Thursday, July 31

o Decorated vegetable or fruit contest entries submitted. Entries will be received 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 31, and 9 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 1, Berkeley Springs High School cafeteria. For ages 4 to 12. Entries displayed 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday in the cafeteria. For more information, call 304-258-8400.

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