The largest one-day fundraiser in Alabama returns this Sunday as Polo at the Point celebrates its 29th annual mixture of sports and fashion. The finals will again take place at Sonny Hill-Clearwater Polo Complex, just south of Fairhope along U.S. 98.
The gates open at 11:30 a.m. for the United States Polo Association-sanctioned event presented by Mercedes-Benz of Mobile and the Grand Hotel Marriott. A silent auction beginning at noon will include such items as works of art, hunting and fishing adventures, and travel packages.
Ericka Fuchsloch, manager of the Point Clear Polo Club, said four teams began round-robin play last week. The third-place finisher will be decided at 12:30 p.m. in the Charity Cup. The overall championship is set for 3:30 p.m. in the Grand Oak Cup. The award presentation follows at 5 p.m., while the Player’s Party kicks off at 6 p.m.
“Each team has a sponsor, and the roster is a mixture of pros and amateurs,” said Fuchsloch, a New Jersey native who moved to Fairhope last summer and has been playing polo more than a decade.
On the squads are:
• Clearwater — Chip Campbell, Jake Stimmel, Gonzalo Teves, Juan Valerdi;
• Carson Hill — Wood Bramlett, Juan Martinez-Baez, Herndon Radcliff, Facundo Retamar;
• BobKat — Bob Edmundson, Marco Llambias, Martin Ravina, Steve Tipler; and
• Parrot Heads — Carlucho Arellano, Jeff Blake, Roni Duke, Tom Gose.
Campbell, Bramlett and Edmundson are members of the Point Clear Polo Club. Radcliff is a Fairhope native who now lives in Birmingham. Blake and Llambias each carry six-goal handicaps, an indicator of their skill with the mallet.
For those who have not attended a polo match, think of a sport that combines horse racing, hockey and soccer. The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, with goalposts set eight yards apart at each end. Each team has four players, who work to drive the ball through for a goal.
Although referred to as “polo ponies,” the players ride on full-sized horses. These animals are highly trained and can make a larger difference in the outcome than the rider’s skills. The games are divided into periods called “chukkers.” Because of the fast action, the horses are swapped after each break.
For much of its history, Polo at the Point was played on Sunday afternoons. The last few events, though, have taken place on Saturdays.
“We must have an ambulance or emergency medical technician at all matches,” Fuchsloch said. “With high school and college football games, it was getting hard to have one secured on Saturdays, so we made the switch back to Sundays.”
Ticket prices range from $10 for the tailgate side to $150 for the catered luncheon tents. Tailgate tickets can be purchased (cash only) at the gate, while tailgate admission for children under 6 is free.
Another change this year involves the fifth annual Fairhope Fête, which will also take place this weekend. The fashion event featuring local merchants and a runway show happens Thursday at the Sonny Hill-Clearwater Complex. Tickets for general admission are $50, with VIP front-row tickets for $150, which includes wine and food from 12 Fairhope restaurants. All tickets include the Player’s Party to follow.
Since its founding in 1988, the volunteer-driven Polo at the Point has donated millions of dollars primarily to the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Cancer Institute and the Thomas Hospital Foundation. Many other local nonprofit groups have benefited. A committee of at least 60 people have worked for the past year planning the weekend, while more than 100 volunteers take part on game day.
“I became familiar with the event just as a fan over the years — a spectator on the tailgate or the tent side,” said Linda Lou Parsons, who is chairing the event for her ninth year. “Like so many of us, I fell in love with this event and its impact as an incredible fundraiser and wanted to be a part.”
Tickets for Fairhope Fête, the Player’s Party and Polo at the Point are available online at www.poloatthepoint.com.
While many people along the Alabama Gulf Coast are familiar with Polo at the Point, few realize there is a spring and fall season for regional squads.
“Of course, we have our local players participate,” Fuchsloch said, “but we also have players from surrounding states … New Orleans and Memphis come in.”
The tournaments usually have four teams playing at Faulkner Farm fields in Silverhill near Baldwin County roads 9 and 48. This is the 47th year of action for the Point Clear Polo Club, making it one of the oldest groups in the U.S.
Also new is a school for aspiring polo players. Mikhal Newberry, a member of Point Clear Polo Club, is the instructor.
“We started in the spring,” Fuchsloch said. “Students need a knowledge of horses and how to ride. We don’t give riding lessons. We just require students be strong enough to hold a mallet, so I would say ages 10 to 12.
“We have an orientation to polo class in the spring, but we can offer polo lessons. Students need to bring their own helmet and boots, while we supply the tack, mallet and horse.”
For more information about the school, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 251-928-7656.
5th Quarter Classic returns
For the second straight season, Ladd-Peebles Stadium will host the 5th Quarter Classic powered by the Mobile Sports Authority. Facing off Saturday at 6 p.m. will be Tuskegee University and Jackson State University.
This is much more than a football game. On Wednesday, a college fair took place at Bishop State Community College for prospective students.
On Friday, the 5QC Kickoff Jam will take place at Mardi Gras Park. Scheduled to perform are Grammy-nominated artists Jon B and Keyshia Cole. Gates open at 6 p.m., with music starting at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, a Mardi Gras-style parade will begin at 10 a.m. from MAMGA Drive and Congress Street before ending at Mobile Civic Center. The tailgate party at Ladd-Peebles Stadium gets underway at noon.
The Fifth Quarter name is derived from the post-game musical battle between the two marching bands. The precision drills, dance routines and drum majors attract as many fans as the game itself.
For more information, visit www.5thquarterclassic.com.