The Blackberry Polo Club in Batavia held a tournament over the weekend, with benefits going to the Batavia Arts Council and Shakespeare at the Centre.

Tailgate parties were held alongside the field as part of the event. Funds were raised from admission to the park at $10 per person or $40 per car, as well as through bids on raffle baskets.

Julane Sullivan, president of the Batavia Arts Council, said the fundraising tournament has been going on for the past five years and remains one of the annual fundraisers for the arts in the city. Normally, it would have been held in mid-July, Sullivan said, but organizers pushed it back in an effort to make sure phase four guidelines were in place due to the pandemic.

“We usually raise about $3,000 that is shared by the Art Council and the Shakespeare Centre,” she said. “We had to make several changes this year with social distancing of cars and the tailgating and we’ll be collecting raffle tickets and money with a basket that will be carried up and down the tailgating area.”

The event usually attracts anywhere from 125 to 150 people, Sullivan said.

Organizers said the event features a theme each year which becomes the focus of a tailgating competition for the best decorations.

This year’s theme “Sweets to the Sweet” produced both some interesting tailgate decorations as well as some highly ramped up costumes like the one worn by James Dauphin of Chicago who came dressed as the Candy Man.

James Dauphin of Chicago gives out lollipops Saturday during a polo match that was held in Batavia to support the Batavia Arts Council and Shakespeare at the Centre.
James Dauphin of Chicago gives out lollipops Saturday during a polo match that was held in Batavia to support the Batavia Arts Council and Shakespeare at the Centre. (David Sharos / The Beacon-News)

“I’m good friends with Julane (Sullivan) and know that during the pandemic, the arts need as much support as possible as they’ve been largely ignored,” he said. “Here in Batavia, things aren’t in the national limelight.”

One of the regular sponsors of the event is Batavia’s Bulldog Plumbing which owner Jamie Saam of Batavia said was something the company has done “at least the past five years.”

“We’re supporting the red team this year as each team usually has a color and as someone who has lived in Batavia a long time, I can tell you people really support the Arts Council and the Shakespeare group which Julane founded on Clark Street in Chicago before it was moved out here,” she said.

Toria Hollyn of Carol Stream, who serves as the director of shows at Shakespeare at the Center, said Saturday’s activity “allowed people the chance to get out and do something” during the pandemic and that support for the arts in Batavia is strong.

“People in the community care about the arts and this is an enjoyable activity where people can watch polo as well as have a good time together,” she said. “The tailgate competition is also a lot of fun and people get a kick out of the … awards we give out.”

A polo fundraiser was held Saturday in Batavia to raise money for local arts groups.
A polo fundraiser was held Saturday in Batavia to raise money for local arts groups. (David Sharos / The Beacon-News)

Batavia’s Joyce and Craig Sprau hosted friends under their candy-decorated tent Saturday and were said by organizers to be one of the winners each year in the tailgate competition.

“We started winning the ‘gate’ awards about five years ago,” Joyce Sprau said. “We probably should have won more but the organizers don’t want to give it to the same person all the time.”

“This is always a good, fun party,” Craig Sprau added. “As far as the ‘gate’ awards – we’ve had some seconds and thirds too. We picnic and watch some polo and often afterwards we’ll get a used ball from the game and have everyone that was here sign it. We’re all big advocates for the arts, and it’s fabulous being able to support them through polo.”

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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