The Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, went off without a hitch from Thursday, March 25 through Sunday, March 28, with the tournament itself presented on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 on Saturday, March 27.
After the weekend’s four events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the players and fans were eager to take to the field this spring for a safely produced series of events.
This was the first time playing the Gay Polo League’s signature event on IPC’s Field 1 — one of the most famous polo fields in the world.
The event was COVID-conscience with mask compliance and social distancing. However, these precautions did not hinder the wonderful energy of the athletes or attendees, nor dampen the creative efforts of the tailgate decorations.
Four teams played in the exciting two-day tournament. Players came from Washington State, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, New York and Argentina. This year, the league welcomed six players making their GPL debut. And for the first time, two teams were composed entirely of LGBTQ+ polo players.
Every year, the league engages new players, both LGBTQ+ and allies. “The exceptional thing this year is the number of players competing in GPL for their first time,” said Chip McKenney, the league’s founder and president. “Our teams reflect the diversity of our communities, and we are grateful to each player who participates and supports GPL.”
This year also set a new record of three LGBTQ+ polo professionals competing. Other professionals and players are LGBTQ+ allies and strong supporters of diversity, human rights and inclusion.
Joey Casey, owner of the Palm City Polo Club, home club of GPL Polo, is the driving force behind providing polo ponies and professional polo players, who volunteer their time and skills to the league.
“GPL is always a fun event, unique in many ways,” he said. “I am a strong advocate for polo and recognize the value of bringing in new players to the sport. I’ve worked with GPL for 11 years, and each year gets better. It’s a blast.”
McKenney was thankful to host a successful event after a difficult 2020 season. “We are delighted with the event, and we are thankful for the ongoing support of our distinguished sponsors that stood by us during 2020 and continue to partner with GPL to promote diversity and inclusion,” he said.
“When companies like Lexus and Douglas Elliman Real Estate collaborate with LGBTQ+ events, like GPL, it speaks volumes about their positive company values and inclusive culture. All of our sponsors share our mission to elevate and promote equality for everyone,” McKenney continued.
Attendees enjoyed great polo coupled with the chance to participate in the traditional tailgate competition, as judged by Hotels at Sea and Celebrity Cruises. Tailgates this year were limited to groups of 12 people each and separated to ensure social distancing, yet this did not slow down the creativity of the community.
“It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying their time together while staying safe,” McKenney said.
Another fun tradition during the tournament weekend was the GPL Polotini event on Friday, March 26. Instead of the usual Wigstock competition, this year’s theme was “MASK-QUERADE,” with the best mask taking home both bragging rights and a trophy.
The event’s charity partner was SAGE USA, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ seniors. McKenney is very proud that the event was able to help this worthy nonprofit.
“With COVID-19, a lot of people are limited on funds, but correspondingly, the needs are more significant than ever,” he said. “The senior community was hit very hard, and SAGE does a wonderful job of helping elderly people avoid isolation and being shut in.”
Despite the cancellation of last year’s tournament, the GPL still hosted a summer fundraiser to support SAGE USA. With a matching pledge from Cherry Knoll Farm, the organization raised $20,000 for the nonprofit. For more information about SAGE USA, visit www.sageusa.org.
In these uncertain times, GPL is happy to be able to host a tournament that so many Wellington locals enjoy, and that draws a crowd from around the country. A successful, safe, enjoyable event was a marvelous start to the Florida spring season.
Learn more about the Gay Polo League at www.gaypolo.com.