BATAVIA – The sport of kings will go all-American with a stars-and-stripes theme for this summer's benefit polo tournament July 17 by the Blackberry Polo Club to support Batavia's art world.
In addition to the equestrian action, it will be a lively afternoon with families and groups invited to drive into the field area, where they are encouraged to tailgate, bringing in lunches and beverages. They can set up pop tents and make the experience festive as the Blue Stars team vies with the Red and White Stripes. Prizes will be awarded in categories such as best tailgater decorating and menus that suit the patriotic theme.
A variety of other activities will regale guests, and featured will be free wagon rides around the field pulled by the farm's own Clydesdale horses. There will be a children's play area, and raffles are planned, with prizes ranging from golf outings to dinners around town. Bernie's Bully Dogs wagon will offer hot dogs for sale; a local baker will serve up apple pie tartlets; and an ice cream man will be on hand.
The annual polo tournament at Blackberry Polo Field hosts players from across the country, and this season's ticket sales to the championship game will go to support Shakespeare on Clark at the Centre and the Batavia Arts Council.
Batavia Arts Council President Julane Sullivan credits the polo benefit's hosting couple for making the rare entertainment possible.
"Barb and George Alexander are so insanely generous to us every single solitary year," Sullivan said. "On top of hosting and allowing us to use it as a fundraiser, Barb is instrumental in getting prizes for the raffle, so we can make a little additional money. They are an extraordinary couple."
To help those uninitiated in the sport gain a better understanding of polo, special attention will be paid to the sound system this year beyond the customary speakers.
"We ordered an FM radio transmitter," Sullivan said, explaining it can be difficult to hear the announcer down the sidelines. "People can bring portable radios and go to the channel synched to [the tournament]. That will be a new thing we’ll be doing."
During the match, the crowd is encouraged to stomp back divots between chukkers [playing periods], and will learn the rules as the announcer calls the game and takes time to explain maneuvers.
"George drives the Clydesdales at halftime – that's some of the entertainment for the kids," Barb Alexander said. "Four Clydesdales pull the wagon, and one carries the flag for the national anthem."
The Alexanders frequently connect polo to charitable events.
"Whatever group really needs it or wants it," Barb Alexander said. "It's fun for us to have a crowd, and the players like it."
People driving by are welcome to join the party last minute, when they spot the sign she sets up that reads "Polo today." The polo club, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is a member of the U.S. Polo Association, for which the tournament will serve as a secondary fundraiser, she said, noting the players will donate their entry fee to the association to train new generations of players and umpires.
"It’s going to be a lot of fun," Sullivan said of the benefit, adding that the two team sponsors are Batavia Bulldog Plumbing and A Mirror Image.
Everyone is invited to break out their patriotic decor, plan an all-American picnic, and bring the family to Blackberry Polo Field for an afternoon replete with hot dogs, apple pie, Uncle Sam, Betsy Ross and the grand old flag.
If you go
What: Polo tournament benefit
When: Noon to 4 p.m. July 17
Where: Blackberry Polo Field, located on Bliss Road, a half mile south of Main Street, on the west side of Batavia
Cost: $10 per person or $35 per carload in advance; $15 and $45, respectively, at the gate
Info: Tickets can be bought at bataviaartscouncil.org; at the Batavia MainStreet office, 2 W. Wilson St., Batavia; and at All Dressed Up Costumes, 901 N. Batavia Ave., Batavia (in the Campana building).