Photpgraphy by Jerry Rabinowitz
Get ready for one of the best equestrian parties of the year. From March 31 to April 3, the Gay Polo League will host the seventh annual International Gay Polo Week (561-753-3389) at Wellington’s International Polo Club Palm Beach. With VIP parties, Sunday brunch, and the big polo tournament April 2, the festivities never end—but the real treat is the tailgating. Participants pull out all the stops trying to outdo one another with theatrical extravaganzas to win awards, including the coveted title of Best in Show.
When it comes to tailgating during International Gay Polo Week, there’s no such thing as too big, too bold, or too fabulous. Whether you bring a 1960s-style hair salon to life or opt for a sophisticated take on a sunny color, you’ll be setting the scene for an unforgettable day of polo, friends, food, and fun.
For some participants, costumes are the most important aspect of the tailgating display. Just ask Dennis Bock, who dressed as a pilgrim last year as part of his group’s holiday—or, as he calls it, “holla-day”—theme. He and his fellow revelers each chose a special-occasion icon and brought food that represents the holiday. An Uncle Sam offered pigs in a blanket and a very untraditional parade in honor of the Fourth of July. A cartoonish “Mama June” pushing a stroller and sipping spirits out of a bottle served traditional apple pie. It was a delightful mayhem of sorts and one that Bock thoroughly enjoyed. “This is a venue where no matter who you are, you can have a good time and nobody’s judging you,” he says.
On the other side of the field, Scott Velozo and Kevin Clark orchestrated an ode to yellow complete with coordinating Chinese lanterns, parasols, and Clark’s 1963 Volkswagen Transporter. “It’s so tough to get everybody in agreement on a theme, so we always just do a color and pick one that’s bright,” Velozo says. Food and drink were also very important to this crew, so they hired a bartender and dined on light picnic fare, most of which was made by Velozo’s partner, Stephen Mooney. Bites of chilled shrimp, meatballs, and a variety of salads paired well with Champagne spritzers, Pimm’s cups, and Rose Kennedy cocktails. For dessert, tailgaters enjoyed a variety of lemon sweets including pound cake and cupcakes. All of this attention to culinary detail scored the group the award for Best Cuisine.
If polo is the Sport of Kings, then tailgating is their celebration of choice. For polo tailgating etiquette, advice, and must-have gear, click here.
Best in Show, however, went to a team that brought unparalleled creativity to the polo field with a kitschy retro hair salon dubbed Gert’s Cut and Curl Salon. Bill Doyle called on longtime friend Daniel McFadden to play “Gert Crawford,” while Doyle dressed as “Francine,” the two co-owners of the fictitious Gert’s, which is modeled after a real salon in Newport, Rhode Island. Explains Doyle: “We went in there and saw all these ladies and all this retro stuff and said, ‘This is beautiful. We need to recreate this magic at Gay Polo.’”
Doyle—whose partner, Jed Pearsall, played in the tournament and who has previously orchestrated such tailgate themes as Titanic, Pan Am, and NASCAR—designed the salon with an eye toward authenticity. “I get obsessed with the perfection,” he says, “not so much to win a trophy but because I’m a perfectionist with details.” Doyle’s details included four authentic hair dryers and two beauty stations from a 1962 salon, as well as vintage beanbag and sling-back chairs plus magazines for the “waiting room.”
Three vastly different displays at an event with one common thread: an aura of acceptance. “It’s one of the most amazing parties you could ever go to—and it’s very welcoming,” says Doyle.