With a mere 48 hours remaining in the countdown to Opening Day, Newport Polo received the official go ahead that they and their fans anxiously awaited, to proceed with opening Season 29 of the Newport International Polo Series on Saturday, June 6th on schedule.
The Gallo Thomas Invitational replaced USA vs. Switzerland, and featured the home team, Newport against a rival team of players based in Tiverton, RI, to the cheers of a loyal and significantly reduced audience of spectators that witnessed the only live sporting event in the Northeast since the pandemic lockdown.
Dan Keating, President of Newport Polo explained “it would not have been possible without the leadership of Governor Raimondo, whose daily press conferences provided the guidelines for a proposal that we submitted at the beginning of May, before there was a website to guide reopening businesses.”
When Governor Raimondo commented, on April 16, on the likelihood of Newport’s Summer Festivals and Events, “if they happen, and I hope some do, it will be under different regulations, with fewer people, and a different kind of event…” Newport Polo took her words to heart.
“In working with the State agencies to get the approval, we definitely felt that they were dedicated to finding solutions to help us open,” added Keating. “Our players and staff have made intensive preparations over the past weeks to deliver the Newport Polo experience that many have come to love.” Spectators comments included that the match had the nostalgia of Newport Polo’s ‘90s era. Although the challengers won 11-9, the occasion was a total victory for Newport Polo and its fans.
Two teams faced off from a stable pool of athletes from the Newport Polo Club that are training under the current Adult Sports guidelines, wearing masks and adapting no-contact rules of polo including eliminating the defensive ride off, and replacing throw-ins at centerfield with knock-ins from the back line after each goal.
Despite a threatening forecast of a thundershower near the start of the match, the program stayed the course with an official coin toss by Gallo Thomas Insurance President & CEO Tom Disanto. A brief drizzle during the opening chukker did not interfere with the progress of play, and ended by the time the second period began, despite radar indicating heavy rain overhead and in surrounding areas from a solid band of weather that crossed the state, leaving a rainbow over the field in its wake.
Newport Polo’s unique spectator experience involves Tailgating in a system of assigned seating at its exhibition venue that it developed several years ago on its proprietary website & box office, which provides online reservations for parking spaces around the polo field from which to observe the polo match. Those parking spaces are now separated by safe social distancing to a limited capacity that is a fraction of its regular audience, to comply with COVID-19 safety measures that have been approved for beaches, parks and drive-in movies. The venue also has an outdoor seating Pavilion that has been revised to comply with the State’s guidelines for outdoor dining.
On the eve of Opening Day, Newport Polo also hosted the Portsmouth High School Class of 2020 Graduation, which similarly was a rewarding experience that had been painstakingly choreographed and had everyone’s cooperation and observance of safety measures to go off without a hitch.
The Polo Series is scheduled to continue for the next 16 weeks, every Saturday in June through September. The schedule of teams is subject to change, as per State mandates in effect at the time, on international travel and Adult Sports.