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Polo match raises cash for Batavia arts

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP - Len Monson readily concedes that he would have chosen to suit up, mount up and take the field, no matter the occasion.

But to have the chance to compete, while raising money for a local non-profit promoter of the arts?

Monson, of Batavia, said that just makes playing the sport he loves that much better.

"This is a really good thing here," Monson said.

"But I'd be playing here today, anyway," he added, with a grin and a wink.

Sunday, Monson was among a dozen polo players competing in the annual Blackberry PTF Seniors' Tournament at the Blackberry Polo Club field in Blackberry Township, just west of the intersection of Bliss Road and Main Street Road.

The event has been run for years. This year, the fundraiser again benefited the Batavia Arts Council and Batavia's Shakespeare on Clark production. It was sponsored by Batavia businesses Confident Aire and Aliano's Ristorante.

Julane Sullivan, director of Shakespeare on Clark, said the fundraiser is critical to the ability of both non-profit organizations to continue their work.

She said the polo match is the largest fundraiser event for each organization annually.

The polo match was again hosted this year by George and Barb Alexander, who own the polo club grounds and run the polo club.

The event drew several dozen spectators from the region, and players from Kane County, as well as from as far away as Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Buzz Rackley, of Elburn, who served as the match's referee Sunday, said the club itself boasts about 50 members from throughout the Chicago area. Together with players from elsewhere, the members play in matches on weekends throughout the summer, as well as on certain weekdays.

He said the weather Sunday, with sunny skies and temperatures of 80-85 degrees, was near ideal for polo.

"It's very weather sensitive," Rackley said. "If it rains too much, the field becomes too slippery.

"Fortunately, it rained other places last night, but not here so much."

Monson said events like Sunday's tournament help to boost the sport's visibility. But he acknowledged that polo, with its complex rules and strategies, and its expensive cost of entry, could be difficult to take up, even for those with a strong desire.

He noted, for instance, that Sunday's match required 50 horses and 55 people working in support.

"I've been playing for 30 years," Monson said. "And I play here all the time, three or four times a week, because I love it.

"And you've got to love it."

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