The Seattle Polo & Equestrian Club began with one man’s vision. Cameron Smith, CEO of Product Creation Studio, stood at one end of a ten-acre cow pasture in Enumclaw, Washington. He gazed out into the distance. Mount Rainier hovered over the horizon with an enormous, breathtaking presence.
Build It And They Will Come
Cameron Smith was searching for a piece of land where he could practice the game of Polo. In the winter, he joined other players from around the world, to play in Palm Springs. In the summer months, Cameron desired a place in the Northwest, where he could perfect his game. Then his vision became grander: He would build a polo field of his own and share his love of the sport with the world. On Sunday, after the championship game, I had the pleasure to talk with Cameron and he shared his original deep intuition with me. “Lois, do you see where that Tesla is parked over on that side of the field? I was standing right in that spot when I first saw this piece of land. It was a rolly, rolly cow pasture. I knew at first sight that this beautiful setting would be the most incredible place to watch a game of polo!” And boy, was he right!
Of course, there was much work involved. He needed to smooth the rolling cow pastures, level and prepare the dirt, sow the seeds and allow the grass time to take hold. It took about two years to build the field (the size of nine NFL regulation fields!) and another year to create the viewing deck to welcome spectators.
Dreams Really Do Come True!
The Third Annual Seattle Polo Party: An Affair to Remember
Smith has most certainly accomplished his mission, as evidenced in the Third Annual Seattle Polo & Equestrian Club’s Polo Party, which my daughters and I attended last weekend.
As we drove through the country road to the event, our excitement mounted. After all, this was our very first polo match. A string of horses and their grooms woman greeted us when we arrived. As we made our way up the wide path, we saw a sprawling field surrounded by umbrellaed tables adorned with white tablecloths and white floral centerpieces. Huge ceramic urns overflowing with flowers decorated the viewing area. Carefully placed sofas, comfy chairs, and other furniture in the VIP areas let spectators watch the match in comfort and style. Large white tents gave shade to the people beneath, who were mingling near the bar and buffet tables. As we entered, the sound of music filled the air and young girls in pastel pinks twirled and danced gayly.
This party was all about the attention to details. A Tesla Model X P90D served as mascot and escorted the players onto the field in the opening ceremony of the final match. Morgan De Palma‘s beautifully sung rendition of the National Anthem echoed far into the distance and Colby Smith carried the American flag while riding his horse.
An array of food trucks lined the walkway, offering a variety of fair to choose from. Hostesses presented each guest with a Seattle Polo & Equestrian Club tote bag filled with handfuls of promotional trinkets and snacks. Gifts inside included Skinny Pop Popcorn, Stella Artois Gold Rimmed Beer Glass, KIND granola bars, Alvin Goldfarb Jewelers chocolates, Essenza hand soaps, Gressa Bare Lip Boost, Cascade Ice Sugar-free Mints, Uber coupons and more. This was going to be a fun day!
Let the Games Begin
Six teams with players from Oregon, Canada, Washington, Mexico and Argentina competed for the 2016 Seattle Cup trophy. Seattle Polo Club rose through the bracket to the semi-finals, and two other teams faced a shoot-out to determine which would advance to the final championship match.
George Dill, Owner of La Conner Polo Club, and Chairman of the USPA International Committee, scored the tie-breaking goal. This brought his team, Tentnology, to the final match against Seattle Polo & Equestrian Club and to the victory on Sunday. I spoke with Dill right after the championship game: “These players are the best in the Northwest. This particular game was fast. Some of the horses were break-less; you just had to let them blow by you and then take your shot. Had to play a smart game.”
Both teams were joyful and exuberant. And why not? Each player was handed a silver bucket holding a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot immediately following the game! After a match of polo in the hot summer sun, that first sparkling sip of Veuve Clicquot must have tasted like heaven.
The ABC’s of Polo
I was grateful for all the players who were willing to patiently explain the game to me. Sheryl Sick on Team Kamikaze played throughout the weekend and had a match on Sunday, but still took the time to explain some fundamentals. “What’s most important when you are playing polo are the horses. The better your horse, the better the energy on the field that you will have. Younger or greener horses have not had as much time on the field and are not as well mounted.” Sheryl has been in the sport since 1998. She grew up riding horses and began playing polo in the collegiate system for the Washington State University’s club program. She has traveled the world to play polo and has been on many coed teams. Sheryl loves this unique sport and sharing it with others.
Hats Off to Maria Card
Polo is exciting to watch, but there are other aspects outside the game that make the polo experience intriguing. Sporting their best hats and attire, guests from around the world gather not just to see the matches, but to enjoy outdoor picnics, help with the traditional divot stomp and to participate or cheer friends on during the infamous hat contest.
Hats off to Maria Card, who won the Hat Competition. Maria’s over-sized, black, paper straw hat with white brim and satin bow caught the entire crowds attention, and Card deserved every bit of it. She grew up in Portland and got her start playing collegiate polo as a sophomore at Oregon State University. She now travels extensively as the Tournament Manager for the U.S. polo Association, where she manages polo events. The USPA is the governing body for all polo within the entire United States. Maria is an avid polo player, loves to see the world, and travels throughout the country to play polo at different clubs. Maria adds with a smile, “Winston Churchill once said that a polo handicap is your passport to the world.”
Annie de Vuono Knows Hats
If by chance you didn’t have time to find the right hat to wear to the event, Seattle milliner Annie de Vuono was on hand with a large selection of hats from her handmade hat collection. What a nice feature to add to a polo match!
de Vuono, a former costume designer, has been designing one-of-a-kind hats since 1986. Born and raised in Chicago, ballet was de Vuono’s first love. She developed costuming for dance and theater companies. Costume design led to her passion for headdresses. “I enjoy designing custom one of a kind hats, and working with my hands came very naturally to me,” de Vuono told me.
All of her fabrics are hand dyed so that she can achieve her desired color palette. Each hat is hand formed on wooden hat blocks. “I feel that each one is like a little tiny sculpture.” de Vuono’s work has been featured in publications like Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily, and Fiberarts Design Book Six. You can check out de Vuono’s work on her website, where each hat is unique and truly a work of art.
It Takes A Village
The Seattle Polo Club had an impressive list of vendors and sponsors present. The roster reads like a “Who’s Who Top Echelon List, ” from industries, ranging from automotive, jewelry, sunglasses, spirits, and fashion. One of the goals of the Seattle Polo Party is to help raise money and give back to their nonprofit partners. I was happy to meet the owners and representatives of the many wonderful companies present.
A special mention and thanks are extended to these generous sponsors whose support makes this event possible: Tesla, Veuve Clicquot Brut, Stella Artois Beer, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, and Proletariat Wines. Fashion houses like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Leisure Society’s Gold Plated Titanium Sunglasses, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, de Vuono Hats, The Brik, BEVL, Kaleb Norman James Design, J.Hilburn Fine Italian Clothing, Karissa Meador, Fashion Fund, Bluesmart, Bikester, Glamster, and food and beverage companies, Vita Coco, Talking Rain, Seleuss, and Skinny Pop Popcorn.
The proceeds provide a venue to raise funds for the Polo club’s project, Champions Foundation. Seattle Polo partnered with Whip Auctions, who procured many of the great items featured in a silent auction. A portion of the proceeds raised will benefit Champions Foundation, whose mission is to aid those in need by offering “Hope, faith, compassion, and education to people in our communities.” because, as it says on their website, ” Without love, where would you be?” Their funding enables such worthy causes as The Tree House, Backpack Meals for Kids, YouthCare, Healthy meals to the homeless in need, S.P.A.R.K, Anti-Trafficking Education & Awareness Committee, Blood Drive and Habitat for Humanity.
Seattle Polo Party 4 Life
The Seattle Polo Party is one of the most anticipated events of the summer—and I hope that now you can see why! My daughters and I felt nothing but warmth and respect from the staff, guests, and players. After the final match, the players joined the guests and celebrated the day, and we loved every moment. I would highly recommend adding this amazing event to your calendar for next year. I know my daughters and I are hooked!
Next up is the Pretty Woman Tournament, September 17-18. George Dill will host the event at his polo club in La Conner, Washington, where Six to Eight teams will compete.
VANGUARD photographer Tiffany Bri did a stunning job of capturing the event two years in a row. We invite you to take a look at the 2016 photo gallery and envision yourself at this magical event next year. Cheers and congratulations to Cameron and the wonderful people whom we had the pleasure to meet at the Seattle Polo Party!
Photos by Tiffany Bri