The ninth annual Santa Ynez Valley Polo Classic will kick off Saturday at Piocho Ranch at Happy Canyon Vineyard, marking two years since the major fundraising event took place after its cancellation in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The classic — which has been redesigned to ensure the health and safety of the players, attendees, community partners and staff — will benefit local nonprofit Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People, which aims to raise much-needed funds for social programs dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children in the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos.
According to a People Helping People spokeswoman, the needs of community members have multiplied many times over in the areas of housing, homelessness prevention and food insecurity as a result of the pandemic’s economic impact.
“We are so grateful to our community for rallying around this highly anticipated event by sponsoring, volunteering and attending,” said People Helping People board President John Kuelbs. “By bringing world-class polo to the Santa Ynez Valley, the Classic’s mission is to raise much-needed funds for People Helping People’s programs to improves the lives of adults and children in the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos.”
Accomplished polo player Meghan Gracida — who will return as player coordinator alongside Joel Baker, a renowned professional polo player and former coach of the U.S. polo team and polo event coordinator — explained that getting back on the field this year is meaningful for many reasons.
“It brings all of the players and me great joy to be able to play the sport we love, on the horses we love, in front of spectators from this great valley that we love— all to benefit those who receive support from People Helping People,” she said. “It is our honor to showcase polo for such a special cause.”
Piocho Ranch is located at 1100 Secretariat Drive in Santa Ynez.
Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record.