Who: Polo fans, hat fashionistas, and friends of the University of Minnesota’s Equine Center
What: 22nd Annual Polo Classic
Where: Twin City Polo Club
When: July 31, 2011
Why: To raise funds for the University of Minnesota’s Leatherdale Equine Center
The sun was high and hot on a July Sunday when I walked through the gates of the Twin City Polo Club. Surrounded by pristine white tents accented with linen tablecloths, champagne, and rows of wooden chairs, I had arrived at the 22nd Annual Twin City Polo Classic -- one of Minnesota’s longest running charity events. I had to shield my eyes to get a full view of the massive Polo field, an impressive 300 yards long and 200 yards wide.
As I made my way to the Twin City Clubhouse, I was greeted by Polo Classic co-chair Craig Robbins, who was busy filling ice buckets and communicating with event volunteers via walkie-talkie. He radioed for a golf cart driven by Bill Venne, chief development officer of the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, who took me across the lawn. Once on the far side, I stopped to chat with the ladies of Style Minneapolis, including its delightful owner, Shayne Barsness, who lent me a black fedora accented with white begonias.
I thanked Barsness and took refuge from the elements under the Mission American Kitchen tent. Chef Jeremy LaFond was on hand serving his delectable goat cheese pasta salad and shrimp gazpacho. After I finished some goat cheese pasta next to U.S. Trust senior vice president Nancy Anderson, I walked back to the clubhouse for the polo match.
Optum Health team players David Allen and Doug Hoskins casually swung their bamboo mallets as they traveled side-by-side talking strategy. Never having seen a polo match, I was curious about the actual logistics. Venne introduced me to announcer Dennis Breen. “Polo is kind of like hockey on horses,” Breen told me. “There are six chukkers (periods), and it’s a mix of high speed and control.”
As play continued, the Optum Health team slowly edged ahead of the U.S. Trust team, and Breen told me what he liked best about polo, “It’s taken me all over the world and introduced me to some of my best friends,” he said.
MVP Doug Hoskins and the Optum Health team eventually galloped to victory with a final match score of 10-6.
Following the game, I participated in the divot-stop and individuals gathered for the hat contest. Judges announced the winner to be Molly Ringgenberg. Ringgenberg was striking, resembling a chipper canary in a yellow dress and “Barsness original” plumed hat.