Club Inducts Four New Members

The January club meeting includes the induction of new club members.  Last month, we inducted Dan Basista, Mike Germano, Chuck Willis and Kirk Reinecke into the Wickliffe Italian American Club.  Each new member is assigned to a standing committee and assigned a mentor to assist with his transition into the club. Congratulations and welcome to our new members.  We look forward to getting to know them through our club meetings and many activities.

by Randy Continenza

Annual Holiday Social

The 2016 President’s Holiday Social took place on Saturday, December 17 at the Wickliffe Italian American Club, James Catering.  This annual event is a special gift from club president, Rick Continenza, to members for their hard work all year to make club events a success.  Members and their guests enjoyed cocktail hour with a bountiful and festive hors d’oeuvres table while the band performed music from the great American Song Book. The joy of Christmas seemed to have been infused into the sumptuous bone-in veal chop with all the trimmings.  Dinner was heavenly as glasses clinked, laughter rang out and candles flickered with delight. Before the band resumed playing holiday and dance music, our president highlighted the accomplishments of the year, and thanked all of the members and our special guests.  In a new tradition started last year, the major sponsors for the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce are invited to attend the Holiday Social as guests of the club.  This year’s guests included representatives from Pat O’Brien Chevrolet, Key Bank, Insurance Partners, Enterprise Car Rental, and Sweet Berry Market.

As a special surprise, guests enjoyed a sneak preview of the rough cut of “Breaking Balls,” a documentary centered around the 30th Anniversary Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce tournament (see accompanying article).

by Randy Continenza


Wickliffe I & A Holds First Local Business Forum

What many of us have known for years has become a recent movement. It’s a movement taking consumers away from large, impersonal big-box retailers and Internet companies and reintroducing them to people doing business locally.  When consumers support their local businesses, they enjoy benefits that they cannot possibly get from shopping on-line and at national chains.  If initial cost was the only factor worth considering in a purchase decision, then local businesses may sometimes be at a disadvantage.  However, there are many other short and long-term considerations when making a purchasing decision. When you personally know the people where you are buying local products and services you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have.   Getting help from a large corporation can be a nightmare.  Start with an 800 number, be transferred, and put on hold; possibly be connected to someone you cannot understand, and finally talk to someone who has little concern over loosing you as a customer.  When you shop local, the business owner has a connection to every employee in the store leading to a personal approach that often means your problem is taken seriously.

Even with all of these benefits from purchasing locally, when the business owners personally know their customers, the level of service and customization gets even better. This was the case when members of the Wickliffe Italian American Club heard presentations from four local businesses who also are major sponsors of the Pat O’Brien Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. Alan Suhy from Pat O’Brien Chevrolet promises club members, family and friends great service with integrity every step of the way for purchasing, leasing and servicingKnown for its large inventory, Upfront Pricing Guarantee, and unrivaled customer service, no other Cleveland Chevrolet dealer offers as much as Pat O’Brian.  Minute Men family of companies’ representative, Dave Wells, explained the wide range of services Minute Men offers.  Services include: staffing, insurance, personnel logistics, payroll processing, and Ohio workers’ comp medical management and customer service.  Club members who own businesses will find many personalized services available from Minute Men.  Wickliffe Key Bank branch manager and assistant vice-president, Marty Grmek offers financial solutions to individuals and business members of the club.  Key Bank has the feel and service level of a small family bank while offering the expertise and resources of a large bank.  Marty will provide personal service backed by the relationship he has built with our club and its members over many years.  Key bank has branches throughout N.E. Ohio to make everyday banking easier for members who may live outside of Wickliffe. Account executive, Patrick Muscenti, is our club’s contact at Insurance Partners, a leading independent insurance agency that specializes in business and personal insurance, employee benefits, life insurance, and professional liability. The agency has earned its reputation for excellence by leveraging more than five decades of risk management experience to deliver keen insight, service, and solutions to clients’ distinct needs, including competitive, niche, and specialty products/services. Organizations of all sizes and sectors benefit from Insurance Partners’ business insurance expertise combined with a distinct approach and access to a broad range of premier insurance carriers. According to Patrick, “There is strength in numbers with a larger independent insurance agency. Insurance Partners is large enough to serve a diverse clientele with a variety of products and services, yet small enough to have a community presence. This combination provides great value for our clients.”

Doing business locally has benefits beyond convenience.  When you support local business, you get a better level of service, as well as making your community a better place to live.

Exclusive Sneak Preview of Bocce Documentary

Attendees at the President’s Holiday Social were treated to a special sneak preview of the rough cut of “Breaking Balls,” a warm, sincere and humorous look at the 2013 Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce and events leading up to the tournament. Over three years in the making, the documentary by local screenwriter and director, John Vourlis, was viewed by over 150 people to rave reviews and thunderous applause.

This feature film length documentary chronicles the game of bocce as seen through the lens of the 30th Anniversary of the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce tournament, one of the largest bocce tournaments in North America, held in Wickliffe, Ohio the weekend of August 23-25, 2013.

Bocce is not just a sport, it is a subculture, a community of players, supporters and fans.

Many of these players are Italian-American or have ancestors that come from the Adriatic southern coast of Europe. Their love of the game and the camaraderie that surrounds it is what this story is all about. They are the heart of the sport as they nurture and pass down from one generation to the next their appreciation of this unique game.

The documentary follows three local key figures in the lead up to and the aftermath of the 2013 tournament. Gino Latessa is the tournament coordinator and President Emeritus of the Wickliffe Italian American Club. Gino’s father taught him to play bocce, and he has passed on his love of the game to his son and grandson. Brian Polantz, world class bocce player, who was playing in the “Triple Crown” events of the World Series of Bocce in Rome, NY; the Cleveland International Bocce Tournament in Mayfield, OH; and the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce in Wickliffe, OH.  Brian had never won the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. And finally, Dominic Olivo (now deceased), who was head grounds keeper of the Wickliffe Italian American Club bocce courts. These courts are considered to be among the finest outdoor bocce courts in North America.  Dominic, knowing his health was failing, made sure that his knowledge was passed on to the next generation, and worked with the crew getting the courts ready for the tournament.

These three storylines converge upon the 30th Annual Cleveland Challenge Cup tournament. The documentary portrays the passion of the individuals involved and captures the tension, anticipation, and competition of the bocce tournaments highlighted in the film.

All present are looking forward to seeing the final version of the documentary when John Vourlis completes it.  John explained that there are more scenes to be added, the musical score needs to be completed and the entire film will be “polished.” He hopes to secure distribution sometime in 2017, so stay tuned for more information on this. John has more than 25 years working in the entertainment industry.  He is currently an adjunct professor in Film and Digital Media at Cleveland State University.

The Pat O’Brien Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce is held annually at the Wickliffe Italian American Club picnic grounds at 29717 Euclid Ave. For a first-hand experience of this fun-filled event, plan to attend on August 25, 26 and 27, 2017.

by Randy Continenza