By Justin Powers, Polo Development LLC Director of Club Development and Pennsylvania native.
Southwestern Pennsylvania is historically known for blue-collar steel workers, high school football, and putting french fries on everything- including sandwiches and salads. When you think of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, you don’t think of polo, but in the small town of Darlington, Pennsylvania, polo is a bit of a way of life for the community. The local police force’s logo features a polo player in the middle of their patch and twice Darlington Polo has been featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal.
The Darlington Polo Club is amidst its eighty-second continuous season of polo and for 82 years, polo in Darlington has been played in front of a blue-collar crowd, a blue-collar way; a 1/3 sized dirt field under the lights on Friday nights, just like high school football. It is fitting that the Darlington Polo Club’s season starts Memorial Day Weekend and runs through the end of August when the Darlington Polo faithful put away their tailgates on the back of pickups and head to high school stadiums on Friday nights to watch some of the grittiest high school football rivalries in the country. If you have seen the movie “All the Right Moves” you understand.
Recently, Pittsburgh Magazine voted tailgating at a Darlington Polo match one of the “Best of Burgh” activities to do in the greater Pittsburgh area. A distinction that came as a bit of a surprise when you factor in that tens of thousands of Steelers fans tailgate on Sundays in the fall outside of Heinz Field to support the great football franchise. Southwest Pennsylvania is passionate about sports, including polo.
Come to a Friday night at Darlington and you will see kids line dancing at half time instead of a champagne divot stomp and “polo casual” fashion give way to blue jeans and ball caps. There are no Pimm’s Cups, but the local Lions Club does offer some of the best polo tailgate food: burgers, wings, funnel cakes, and of course french fries!
There are a few urban legends floating around the polo community about the fans that root for the Darlington “Night Riders” including chicken wings being thrown at opposing players and chicken wire between the players and the fans like a scene out of Blues Brothers, both cannot be confirmed. Tailgating at Darlington has changed a bit over the years. The pickup trucks are newer and gone is the rowdy crew that brought their own barbecue smoker and war drum and played it during key moments of the game such as an opposing team’s penalty shot. Eighty-two years of polo and the Darlington tailgating experience is still alive and well. Annually, the first Friday night match kicks off the “Darlington Days” Community Festival. Fans show up the day before to put up tents to reserve their spot next to the field.
The Darlington Polo Family would like to thank the thousands of people who have experienced polo the Darlington way, the hundreds of players who have trekked to Steel Country to play polo on the dirt, and the Pittsburgh Magazine for celebrating what we have all known for a long time. Polo is a great way to spend a Friday night.