Polo matches might be the classiest tailgate party on the Treasure Coast.
“A lot of people think it’s hoity-toity,” said Alexandra Doucet, the polo administrator for Vero Beach Polo, “but it’s not.”
On most Sundays from January through April, the public is welcome to pay $10 each to watch polo games at the residential club on 12th Street between 74th and 82nd avenues. The gates of the polo grounds open at noon to start tailgating before the matches start at 1:30 p.m.
The size of the party varies from 100 to 500 people, depending on the weekend, Doucet said. The biggest day last year was the women’s tournament.
People can park or back into any spot on the west side of the field that’s not marked with a white tailgate sign on the board along the field.
These are for people who buy into season tailgate spots, which cost between $800 and $1,100, increasing in price as the spots get closer to the center line and announcing tower.
Anyone can park anywhere on the east side of the field, but the west side is better for a couple reasons. The sun sets in the west, so you might be staring into the sun watching the matches from the east side. The loud speakers are on the west side of the field, but Doucet does hope to add amplification on the east side.
Bring chairs and set up a table, tent or back of a vehicle while you enjoy food and drinks throughout the games. Friendly pets are welcome.
My first time watching polo games this way — or ever — was a learning experience. I backed my vehicle into an open spot and unfolded a couple chairs, but I forgot the food and drinks. Luckily, a friend who lives in the club ran home to bring back a cooler of beers and ciders.
One couple I spotted had an admirable setup: a wooden folding table and chairs, large glasses of red wine and a cheese-and-cracker spread.
During halftime, both kids and adults jump on a wooden hitting horse in the middle of the field to experience what it’s like to play polo from that height. Everyone walks the field for the divet stomp, filling in grassy holes made by horse hooves.
“It’s very helpful to us actually,” Doucet said.
The ages of the Argentine polo ponies range from 6 to teens. These athletes are changed out constantly to protect them from overuse. About 50 are there on Sundays.
Some of the players come from across the state to play on Sundays and some are international, including players from Argentina, France, Austria and the United Kingdom.
Some players are local. One of the club’s pros is Tiffany Busch, who grew up playing in Vero Beach and came from a great polo family.
“Polo has been a big part of the community for a really long time,” Doucet said. “The sport’s been here as long as people have been here.”
The first polo match ever recorded in history was in 600 B.C. in central Asia. The sport was played in the early years of the Olympics. Polo clubs began in the mid-1800s.
The polo field in Vero Beach is regulation size, which is 300 by 160 yards — bigger than nine football fields.
The announcer, in her perfectly British accent, educates throughout the matches, explaining penalties and the score.
“We try to make it as accessible as possible to someone who’s never been,” Doucet said.
Sometimes the games are a tournaments and other times just in-club matches, depending on the weekend. They typically lasts two to three hours.
Sometimes there are beginners matches before the real games begin.
“We want people to come out and enjoy themselves and see the game and cheer people on,” Doucet said. “We want to put on fun, family-friendly, community-based polo.”
Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Read her weekly column, Laurie’s Stories, on TCPalm.com. Follow her on Twitter at @TCPalmLaurie or Facebook at faceboook.com/TCPalmLaurie.
Vero Beach Polo matches
When: 1:30 p.m. Sundays through April 28 (except April 21); gates open at noon
Where: Vero Beach Polo Club, 1084 E. Polo Grounds Lane, on 12th Street between 74th and 82nd avenues
Cost: $10 per person, cash only (infants free)
Info: 772-321-3614 or www.facebook.com/verobeachpolo