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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo by Mary Whalen

Cadieux Cafe Feather Bowlers
1999 awardee, Detroit (Wayne County), feather bowlers

The Cadieux Cafe Feather Bowling Club was established in 1933 in Detroit. The club bowls at the Cadieux Cafe, which continues to be a center for Belgian-American gatherings and activities. The Cafe's large sign announces it is the "home of Belgian sports." Belgian (Flemish) feather bowling, pigeon racing, bike clubs, and traditional Belgian food have a strong presence here.

Feather bowling entails rolling a wooden, cheese-shaped ball down the Cadieux's dirt-packed, curved alleys, getting as close as possible to pigeon feathers stuck upright in the dirt on either end. Each night of league play, the club members divide up randomly into teams according to their "class," which indicates their experience. Each team is ideally made up of three players, one from each class. After flipping a coin, the first team typically rolls the first two balls close to the feather, and then rolls the rest of their balls into places that serve as "blocks" to any other balls. The second team's players try to weave their balls in and out between the blocks or knock the blocks out of the way, with the final bowler attempting to gain a better position than the first team. A referee determines the score for each round. Rounds continue until one team reaches ten points. While the bowlers play, spouses socialize and restaurant patrons wander in to watch the action.

Feather bowling and the Cadieux Cafe have come to symbolize Belgian identity for the Belgian-American community. The Cadieux Cafe Feather Bowling Club members' commitment to the traditional sport is a sign that feather bowling captures and expresses familial, ethnic, local, and global connections for Belgian-Americans in the Detroit area. Many of the bowlers are also members or officers of the Belgian-American Association and the Belgian Century Club. As a consequence of their dedication to the game, they have helped to create a social and cultural context in which Belgian culture and other traditions are shared and strengthened.

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