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Mount Kisco Celebrates New Sports Courts and Two Cultures

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Village officials and members of Legado Latino and the Italian American Club of Northern Westchester cut the ribbon for the opening of a new volleyball court and bocce court at Mount Kisco’s Leonard Park last Saturday.

Last Saturday was a beautiful day to be outside, and community members in Mount Kisco had extra reason to celebrate.

The village unveiled its latest recreation enhancements, opening a new bocce court and volleyball court at Leonard Park that represented more than new surfaces for residents to play on.

It was a collaboration between municipal government, the local organization Legado Latino and members of the Italian-American Club of Northern Westchester, which partnered to bring a favorite activity from both cultures to the park.

“These two groups, in a stroke of genius, have come together in support of this community, celebrating their cultural heritage,” said Mayor Gina Picinich. “They do it with strength and with pride and they bring so much to this community.”

At first glance, the volleyball surface may look similar to what many American-born residents might be used to seeing. But the court is equipped with a net that reaches 9 feet, 2 inches above the ground, 14 inches higher than what is typically found on the court.

Its enthusiasts call the sport Ecuavoley, a variation of conventional volleyball that was created in Ecuador more than a century ago. It is played with a harder ball, usually a soccer ball, with only three players from each side on the court at a time, said Village Trustee Kaine Patino, a daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants. The size of the court is the same as volleyball.

With Mount Kisco having a growing population of residents of Ecuadorian heritage, players would often be found playing on an uneven patch of dirt or grass. The new court is a permeable surface that needed to be installed because the New York City Department of Environmental wouldn’t allow impervious pavement in the park.

“Spraining our ankles was part of the game, so seeing this beautiful court is amazing,” said Mount Kisco resident Edison Venegas.

Patino said for those who grew up in the village, Leonard Park was an oasis for them, especially on Sundays after church. To have a facility that is new and with an activity that is part of their heritage is of particular importance to the community, she said.

“This park was and continues to be a second home and a support system for our immigrant communities, which has the power of strengthening our community as a whole,” Patino said. “They will enjoy several games, those enjoyed by the old-schoolers, those that you typically see already playing, those played by women groups, which we hope to start again.”

Most of the funding for the two courts was brought by Assemblyman Chris Burdick (D-Bedford), who contributed $125,000 in state money. Village Manager Ed Brancati said there was room for a bocce court, a popular activity among the sizeable Italian population in the village.

The cost of the entire project, which includes some seating and lights, so it could be enjoyed in the evenings in good weather, was about $170,000, Brancati said.

Burdick said he was thrilled to contribute to a project that unites different segments of Mount Kisco.

“One of the great things about what has happened here is to bring the community together,” he said. “Look at how we have everyone working together to a common goal, and I have to say some of the most gratifying work that I do, is the work that I do to try and make that happen.”

Anthony Cerretani, of the Italian American Club of Northern Westchester, said the alliance with Legado Latino has benefited both communities and the village. The two organizations have jointly held previous events together.

“They’re so happy to be part of this and we’re happy to be part of them,” Cerretani said.

“We give thanks to everybody who helped us with everything,” added Claudio Bermeo of Legado Latino. “Now, it’s a dream come true.”

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