In front of the largest crowd of the summer season, the August 28th Summer Polo Charity Classic raised the most money ever in a single-day polo event in the United States.
By Sharon Robb
The club’s summer marquis event, hosted by owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi and Aspen Valley Hospital at McClure River Ranch, raised more than $2 million for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
The soldout event raised $1 million and was matched by a generous anonymous donor. It is the highest total raised since the event was created in 2016. The previous high was $604,000 in 2019.
The funds will support independent healthcare in the Roaring Fork Valley and is earmarked for the final phase of the Master Facilities Plan Capital Campaign at Aspen Valley Hospital.
“This year people came and they showed up and we hit the one million dollar mark for funds raised,” said Deborah Breen, outgoing Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation President and CEO. “It was an unbelievable year. People came out and they were super generous. We just blew it out of the water. It was incredible.”
It was a winning combination of polo, sponsors, donors, great food and live auction to raise much-needed funding for the hospital projects.
Sponsors of the event were VectraBank, Alpine Bank, Martin Engineering, Lugano Diamonds, Aspen Valley Hospital Medical Staff, Beverly Hills Caviar, Caribou Club, Harrington Smith Floral, Haselden Construction, Jay’s Valet, Premier Party Rental and Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Guests in the fieldside VIP tent enjoyed a lavish menu prepared with white glove service and impeccable attention to detail by Caribou Catering. The menu featured black truffle poached lobster salad, petit filet of beef, seared sea scallops, sweet treats for dessert and coffee.
Professional auctioneer David Goodman of Auction Results made his debut in front of 250 VIP guests at the event with his energetic auctioning off of big ticket items that included luxury trips that were sold multiple times. The paddle raise started with a single $100,000 donation. “He took things to a whole other level,” Breen praised.
Some of the auctioned items included: African Safari; private barn tour by Nacho Figueras in Argentina; eight-day trip to Normandy, France complete with a private chef and case of wine; eight-day trip to Tuscany, Italy with a private chef; the use of Robb Report’s Car of the Year for two nights; and an exclusive dinner party for eight prepared by award-winning Caribou Club executive chef Miles Angelo and host Louie Velasquez.
The fun, day-long event featured a polo doubleheader. Los Amigos won its third and biggest tournament after a hotly-contested defensive battle. Los Amigos (Paul Foster, Jason Crowder, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan) defeated defending champion Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Marc Ganzi, Tomacho Pieres, Juan Martin Nero), 5-4, to win the coveted Triple Crown of Polo-Aspen. Ganzi, 24, was named Most Valuable Player.
In the Maroon Bells Cup, Victory (Kevin Schmeits, Vinny Sangaline, Torito Ruiz, Nacho Novillo Astrada) defeated Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, Alejandra Foster, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 20-19. Victory led Santa Rita, 9-8, after the first six chukkers on Friday. The score was carried over into the final. Ruiz was named Most Valuable Player.
Team Fastrax Professional Skydiving Team, a favorite at sister club Grand Champions Polo Club during the WPL season in Wellington, Fla., treated fans before the game by entering the stadium with the American and WPL flags. Galxara gave a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
The Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, now in its tenth year after being formed in 2012, is a non-profit solely focused on encouraging philanthropic support for the current and future needs of Aspen Valley Hospital.
Six years ago Breen and Event Chair Melissa Ganzi decided to turn the Community Day celebrating its anniversary into “something special” with a “build it, they will come” mentality.
“After the first year we saw that this event really had legs,” Breen said. “I remember her saying to me ‘we need to make this a million dollar event.’ That has been my driving inspiration for the years we have been doing this. Melissa believed in us, the hospital and our foundation and believed we could do it.”
Aspen Valley Hospital is an important asset that delivers excellent care to the small mountain community, thanks in part to the funds raised at the Summer Polo Charity Classic and World Snow Polo Championship. Aspen Valley Hospital has met important goals as evidenced by its high-ratings in patient satisfaction and quality of care.
Aspen Valley Hospital has been serving the community for more than a century. In order to provide high quality healthcare the community deserves, the hospital continues to modernize and expand facilities, improve technology, and add space for clinics and medical specialties.
Aspen Valley Polo Club finished its ninth season successfully with a record 13 tournaments and some of the world’s top players including Juan Martin Nero, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Nic Roldan.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Kidz Wheely Polo, Gymkhana, the Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the club tournaments on more than six world-class fields. There are also indoor and outdoor polo arenas.
Aspen Valley Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program. The Polo School for all ages and ability levels operates in Carbondale July through September.