BATAVIA – People who love horses, sports competition and tailgating can support the Batavia Arts Council by attending this summer’s polo tournament fundraiser from noon to 4 p.m. July 15.
The event is organized by the Arts Council, whose president is Julane Sullivan, owner of All Dressed Up Costumes in Batavia.
“Julane came up with the Gatsby Gallop [theme] which I think is great,” said Barbara Alexander, who with husband George hosts the event at their Blackberry Polo Club field on the western edge of Batavia. “The 1920s was the big heyday of polo in the United States – mostly on Long Island.”
She said the U.S. Army even had teams back then and had a polo center on Long Island in the Roaring Twenties. Her own grandfather played polo when he was in the Army at his base in South Dakota, Alexander said.
“He gave me my first pony – a little kids pony,” she said. “I started riding when I was 4.”
She said it was her love of horses that led her independently to begin playing polo.
“I love the pictures they show from the ’20s,” Barbara Alexander said, noting at the time the sport was male-dominated. “The men used to put on camel’s hair coats afterward (to accept awards). It didn’t seem to matter what the weather was. It was very dressy [and] a big deal.”
Between her acting work and Sullivan’s expertise in theater and costuming, the Batavia Arts Council has been a fitting recipient of proceeds from the tournament. The event also will offer auction items. The council supports the arts in the community by awarding grants and scholarships.
To view the Gatsby Gallop, families and groups can drive their vehicles onto the field area, where they are encouraged to take part in the tailgate competition and vie for prizes. People can decorate their area or tent or the back of their vehicle or create a menu that is thematic, according to Sullivan’s annual instructions.
Sullivan noted that inspiration from the era could come from the Gatsby party, the Roaring Twenties, flappers, gangsters, speakeasies and bathtub gin. The winner receives Golden Gate bragging rights among the prizes awarded by judges.
Period or vintage-inspired apparel is optional but encouraged. Barbara Alexander said she will be busy helping orchestrate the event and won’t be in a flapper dress but might don her 1920s straw bowler.
At halftime, George Alexander will offer free wagon rides, pulled by a pair of Clydesdales from the farm.
“People like to see the horses in between the chukkers [competition periods] and pet them,” Barbara Alexander said.
There will be children’s games and people are welcome to bring their own picnic lunch and refreshments.
The two team sponsors are Bulldog Plumbing and A Mirror Image. The teams this year are dubbed the Bootleggers and the Gangsters. The players’ entry fees will go to support the development of players through the Polo Training Foundation.
The Gatsby Gallop fun begins when the Alexanders’ Clydesdale horse Bert leads the procession of players onto the field for introductions. He wears a saddle specially equipped for flag-carrying for these occasions and parades the Stars and Stripes as the national anthem is sung.
Barbara Alexander said Bert thinks he knows exactly how long the song and his duties should last, and has been known to walk off at the very end before an especially elongated final note has ended.
If you go
WHAT: Polo tournament benefit
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. July 15
WHERE: Blackberry Polo Field, located on Bliss Road, a little south of Main Street, on the west side of Batavia; signs will be posted
COST: $10 per person or $40 per carload in advance; nominally more at the gate
INFO: Tickets can be bought at bataviaartscouncil.org