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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Newport International Polo Series

A Saturday at the Newport Polo Fields has been on my list for a few summers. The horse lover and obvious Newport lover in me was excited to spend a Saturday summer evening in my favorite state, sipping on wine and enjoying a New England summer day.  I knew that polo was cheap (12$ for general admission), BYOB (yes please), and you could bring your own picnic.   Also, I read that dogs were allowed and it was a casual low key scene away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Newport.  

 BYOB, Dogs and Boozey Picnic? I knew I needed in. 

 After procrastinating for many a summer, never actually committing the time to see a match, I finally had the chance to attend a Newport Polo Match.  One of my childhood friends was getting married and we celebrated her bachelorette party in lovely Newport, Rhode Island.  After spending the earlier part of the day at Newport Vineyards, we got to the polo field early to set up our spot and pour some wine while we waited for the match to start.  Dinner at the Clark Cook House, snacks at the vineyard, and dinner at the polo field... recipe for a fantastic Bachelorette weekend. 

"Newport Polo hosts the Newport International Polo Series XXVI, and is the home of America's first polo club, est. in 1876.  The Polo Series will feature 8 international teams this season including France, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Jamaica, England, Dominican Republic and the debut of Peru, as well as 5 City Teams from major US cities and a few top regional rivals for an action-packed season through the end of September.  This is the 26th season of Newport International Polo Series, which has hosted teams from over 30 nations including, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, France, Egypt, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Nigeria, Portugal, New Zealand, Barbados, Scotland, South Africa, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Kenya, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, Monaco, and Morocco".

"Minutes from downtown Newport, the International Polo Grounds are located at historic Glen Farm, 250 Linden Lane (off of Rte. 138) in Portsmouth, RI.  This bucolic setting is the last 100 acres of what was once a 700-acre manorial farm whose settlement dates back to the 1600's.  Its classical stone barns from the Gilded Age and its park-like grounds were rehabilitated by polo series founder, Dan Keating, and thrive today as an equestrian & community recreational property, and home of the Polo Series".

On a Saturday in July, we watched Newport play Pittsburg on a pretty perfect summer day.  However, international matches are also held here at the field and you can watch the USA team play other countries here in Newport. 

When it comes to food and seating, you have options.  You can do something as simple as pack cheese and crackers, pay $12 admission and throw a blanket on the lawn.  You can bring a large picnic throw out some chairs and set up camp for a few hours.  Heck, you can even purchase a tail gaiting SPOT, bring your grill, make it fancy, set up a table and bring some flowers.  Or if you don’t want to do any prep, you can get a seat at the Twisted Pony, order off the menu and get a drink at the bar. 

What you can bring and what you can do depends on your admission/seating.  If you get a seat in the pavilion you CAN bring your own food but you CANT bring your own booze.  Out on the lawn, you can bring your own everything. Bring your grill, your chairs, and your cooler. If you don’t feel like bringing your own meal or sitting at the restaurant, there are several food trucks parked on the lawn where you can purchase food.

So many options - Here is what we did

General Admission:  $12 (Cash)
Food:  Brought our own!
Alcohol:  Brought our own!
Parking:  Free!
Tailgating:  Set up surrounding the field, general admission area 

We got there NICE and early to reserve our spot right on the edge of the field.  We brought coolers of food, chairs, picnic blankets, bottles of wine, and just about everything you need to enjoy a game of polo.   This was the most perfect way to spend some time with the girls, watching polo all for the price of $12.  

Alex and Ani Pavilion:   Pavilion Seats - $20/person for admission to the Alex and Ani Pavilion and opens at 3pm on game day.  We recommend advanced reservations online only, by selecting an available table(s) from the Pavilion diagram, then indicating the number of seats you wish to purchase (regardless of age); tables seat up to 4, 6 or 8, and are located on the (L) Lawn, (P) Porchª, (T) Tent*ª, and (D) Decksª.   Beverage service is provided from the Twisted Pony Bar.  No outside beverages permitted.  You may bring food, including offerings from gourmet food truck concessions at the venue.  

Positive Energy Polo Lounge:   $50/person on 6/24, 7/15, 7/29, 8/12, 8/26 and 9/9 in 2017, for all-inclusive premium admission ticket, that includes complimentary gourmet hors d'oeuvres, specialty cocktails and beverage service from a specialty cocktail bar, reserved parking, private entrance and preferred seating among VIP sponsors & guests in the Positive Energy Polo Lounge.  No outside beverages permitted.

General Admission (what we did):  $12/adult (kids free up to the age of 15) General Admission to Lawn, Grandstand and Reserved Tailgate Parking areas. Picnics of food & beverage are welcome.  Bring lawn chairs & blankets for Lawn area.  Lawn and Grandstand are available on a first-come-first-serve basis on game day, and cannot be reserved in advance without authorization from Polo Office. Gates open at 1pm/Noon in Sept.  General Admission tickets are sold online or at the entry gates on game day.  General Parking is free.  Tailgate Parking Spaces (located on the perimeter of the playing field) are offered for reservation online only (see details below).

Lawn Seat Season Subscription: $125 (Member) offers superb value & benefits for individual lawn seating for the entire season.  

General Parking - free.

Reserved Tailgate Parking - $50 per space.  Reserved numbered space on the South perimeter.  Can accommodate up to 15 people and/or 2 cars end to end.  These spaces may be reserved online only. These spaces are located on the perimeter of the playing field from which you can view the match & enjoy a tailgate picnic with up to 15 people/space.  Limit of 1 space per household, unless Group ticket minimums are included in multiple space reservation.  Reservation does not include admission. General admission is required for each occupant (over the age of 15) in a tailgate parking space.

Reserved Tailgate Chalet - $100 per space.  Reserved numbered space on the North perimeter, includes installed chalet tent, can accommodate up to 15 people and 1 car.  These spaces may be reserved online only.  These spaces are located on the perimeter of the playing field from which you can view the match & enjoy a tailgate picnic with up to 15 people/space. Limit of 1 space per household.  Reservation does not include admission. General admission is required for each occupant (over the age of 15) in a tailgate parking space.

Before the match (or even during) you can walk around the grounds, making your way across the field to see some of the horses (polo "ponies") in the pastures.  A "polo pony" may be of any breed or combination of breeds, though many have a significant amount of Thoroughbred breeding. They are called "ponies", but that is a reference to their agile type rather than their size (almost all are horse-sized!).  

You may notice that the horses manes are all cute very short, and their tails are wrapped up. Polo ponies have their manes "hogged" (shaved down) and their tails "plaited up" (wrapped/tied up) before a match, so that the polo mallet will not get tangled in them (formerly, their tails would be docked and banged).

It is pretty impressive how many horses are needed for one match of polo.  Horses can be swapped out for each chukka, or can play several chukkas.  At the higher levels, the professionals are switching horses every 3-4 minutes (maybe more!) to keep the fresh horse advantage. If you’re watching a 6-chukker grass polo match on a standard 300 x 160 yard field, that game will have a minimum of 50 different horses. Plus the two refs on horseback. Lets call this a 52 horse fiasco. 

One of my favorite things about the match was the commentator (you can read more about him here). Before the match (what games are called) he explained all the rules and how the scoring worked. He also explained the match, play by play, as it went on. He was funny and cheeky, and his commentary was both hysterical and interesting to hear how the game was played.   So how is the game played?  Here are some general rules:

The Playing Field: The maximum permitted pitch is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, and the goal posts are 8 yards apart. 

Duration of Play: The match is divided into chukkas, each lasting 7 minutes, with an interval of 3 minutes between each one. At half time the interval is extended to 5 minute and spectators are invited to take to the pitch to tread in divots (half time stomp the divits where everyone stomps the large chunks of grass that had been torn up during the match).  The bell is rung at the end of each 7 minute period. Play continues until the ball goes out of play, or the umpire stops play for a foul, or the bell is rung for a second time 30 seconds after the first bell. In the final chukka play stops with the first stroke of the bell. 

Changing Ends: Ends are changed after EACH GOAL scored, or at half time if no score by then. 

The Team:  A team is numbered from 1 to 4 and each position has a purpose. No1 and No2 are the forwards; No3 is the pivot position and usually the best player in the team, and No4, or Back, the goal defender. 

There are so many more rules you will just have to head on over to here to keep reading.  But for now, what you need to know is that each 7 minute session in a chukka, and some riders will have a new horse for each chukka.  The commentator will explain the rules and the plays as the match goes on. 

September hours:  
All polo matches begin at 4PM in Sept.  
Entry Gates open at Noon. 
ALEX AND ANI Pavilion opens at 2PM. 
Vendors open at 2:30PM.

The crowd hangs out after the game, finishing their drinks and grilling the last of their meal.  There was no rush to leave the match so don’t worry about traffic leaving.  The other beauty of the match is that you are located out of the chaos and won’t need to deal with downtown Newport traffic.  I can't stress enough how much fun we had at this match on a gorgeous summer day in Newport.  For $12 a person, we had parking and a great spot right along the border of the field.  We brought our own food and our own drinks, and had a great time enjoying eachothers company and learning about the sport of Polo. 

Thank you Newport Polo for a fantastic day on the field.  

Newport International Polo Grounds 

1 comment :

  1. I got to go this year too! We did the tailgating chalet area and it was SO FUN! Definitely would love to go again.


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