Every step toward normalcy is a significant accomplishment these days, and the Gay Polo League (GPL) recently announced the return of the Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The event runs March 25 through March 28, with the main event on Saturday, March 27 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
“This will be the 11th year in Wellington. This is the home of our flagship event. We have produced other events internationally, but this by far is our largest and most prestigious event,” GPL founder Chip McKenney said. “For the first time in the history of the GPL, we will have two all-gay polo teams competing. This is a pretty exciting milestone for us.”
Another highlight is that in addition to returning players, there are six new players making their debut with the GPL during the tournament.
“While we are an LGBT-identified event, we are an inclusive event, not exclusive. We wholeheartedly welcome members outside of our gay communities to share and celebrate the sport of polo with us,” McKenney said. “Our event is very spectator-oriented. When someone who has never been asks me what it’s like, I explain that the International GPL Tournament is like the love child between Burning Man and Pretty Woman.”
The GPL is growing and is gaining not only the attention of the public, but also of global companies who support and advance equality and inclusion. Fun and festivities aside, this event was created to support the community it serves.
“Our charity partner will be SAGE USA, which is an organization that advocates for LGBT elders,” McKenney said. “It’s a COVID-19 year, and a lot of people are limited on funds, but correspondingly, the needs are more significant than ever. 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 and donated a record-breaking $20,000 for the nonprofit.
“We are very grateful for our sponsors who stuck with us through the 2020 cancellation and extremely grateful to IPC to allow us to host the event at their incredible club,” McKenney said. “Many people have contributed to the success and formation of this event — the sponsors who support us, the players who participate and, of course, our audiences.”
Guests are also invited to compete throughout the event. There is a judged tailgate competition. Both tailgate spaces and occupancy are limited this year, due to virus restrictions. There are only 28 tailgate spaces available, and guests are limited to 12 people per tailgate.
Another fun tradition during the tournament weekend is the GPL Polotini event on Friday, March 26 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the IPC Pavilion. Instead of the usual Wigstock competition, this year’s theme is “MASK-QUERADE,” with the best mask taking home both bragging rights and a trophy. The sit-down dinner includes an open bar, silent auction and a live performance by special guest Randy Roberts. All proceeds will benefit SAGE USA.
“We all are a little bit pent up. We can host and produce a great event that is safe, enjoyable and connecting. We can have all the same attributes on a more controlled basis,” McKenney said. “We want to make sure that people know we are being thoughtful and smart and not put anybody at risk.”
Many are thrilled to see the tournament come back, but guests will still notice some changes this year. For instance, the tournament was downsized a bit, from six teams to four. Also, the traditional “divot stomp” halftime mingling during a typical polo match will not take place.
“With COVID-19, we are being socially conscious, and we are making changes. We are not going to call the crowd out on to the field to mingle,” McKenney said. “We are taking thoughtful measures to make sure that everyone has a safe, enjoyable and relaxed experience. For example, all our events will be held outdoors. Masking and social distancing are also encouraged.”
To help keep these safety measures in place, there will be no general admission tickets available — every spectator will have a set destination. All events require advance purchase to attend, and tailgates are at limited capacity.
Anyone interested in sponsorship packages should reach out to McKenney at email@example.com or call (323) 712-3514.