When thinking of polo, one inevitably thinks of the British royal family or perhaps Julia Roberts’ iconic turn in “Pretty Woman.” Of course, in Colorado, we do it a little differently. Now in its third year, PoloFest Denver thrives at the intersection between extreme sports, outdoor recreation, cutting edge technology and musical experiences.
PoloFest and its sister company Horseplay TV are the products of co-founders Rob Jornayvaz and Ty MacCarty. Polo players themselves, Jornayvaz and MacCarty are striving to bring a more inclusive perception to the sport of polo to the public while showcasing the incredible capabilities of athletes on and off the field.
“These horses are running at speed 30-40 mph and the ball can go at 120 mph which is faster than an NHL slapshot,” says Ford MacCarty, festival manager. It’s a sport that requires hand-eye coordination, animal management and sheer nerve.
By being the first to film and broadcast polo games using drones, slow-motion cameras and other techniques, Horseplay TV has been able to show the reality of polo to masses via events like PoloFest Denver and on Polo Channel, their propriety streaming network. Recognizing that a polo field is the size of nine football fields and that the action often takes place far away, the team at Horseplay TV created strategies to “live produce” games, including instant replay, videos on the history of polo, the players and more.
PoloFest Denver, held at the Denver Polo Club in Sedalia, is the result of a dream to create a live, X-games style event for polo. By creating a festival that combines great live music with world-class polo matches, the team at PoloFest Denver hopes to draw a new and more diverse population to polo. Last year more than 3,000 people attended and this year, with back-to-back musical acts, the finals of Colorado Open featuring Adolfo Cambiaso, “the best Polo player of the last 50 years” according to MacCarty, and activations around the sport, attendance is expected to grow.
The bucolic grounds of the Denver Polo Club offer views of the Front Range. Family-run for more than 30 years, it began in 1986 and is currently owned and managed by Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, daughter of the founders. Though Denver Polo Club itself has a storied history and has hosted visiting polo teams from around the world, including those from India, the U.K., Pakistan and Australia. PoloFest is a Colorado-casual event. Think denim, not diamonds.
Some of the activities planned for 2019 include the opportunity to ride a polo horse (so long as you sign a waiver), try out a foot mallet, try out a mechanical bull, or hop on a wooden horse. PoloFest also features virtual reality headsets so attendees can experience what it’s like to be a professional player. After you’ve built up an appetite, head over to one of the many food trucks to satiate your appetite.
If you like polo, but are still on the fence about attending, PoloFest’s musical guests should convince you. This year’s music headliners are Kygo, who holds the world record of fastest 1 billion streams on Spotify and Sofi Tukker. Kygo is a Norwegian DJ, record producer, and songwriter whose previous engagements include the 2016 Olympics closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro and the iHeartRadio Music Festival. Sofi Tukker is a Grammy-nominated American musical duo consisting of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The group is perhaps best known for their track “Best Friend,” which was featured during Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone X.
ese artists, with their distinct links to the sports and technology communities, are perfect choices for Polofest Denver as it showcases the sport of polo via streaming, film and more. It’s also appropriate to include an international artist, since polo is perhaps better known in Europe, Asia and South America than it is stateside. “Our mission is to grow and rebrand polo,” says Ford MacCarty. “We’ve spent years working at this. Our long-term goal is to expand this beyond Denver.”
While this event is certainly a good time, it also benefits a terrific organization. A portion of the proceeds from Polofest go towards the Equine Partnership Program, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Elizabeth. EPP provides mental health services to children, families, individuals, and groups utilizing horses in a form of psychotherapy called Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. “As polo players ourselves, we understand the importance of a connection to horses,” MacCarty adds. Last year more than $45,000 was raised for the organization.
No matter if you’re a Colorado native or a visitor from out of town looking for something that captures the essence of the area, check out PoloFest Denver. “Whether you’re a horse, music or food lover, you’ll find something at PoloFest to enjoy,” MacCarty promises.
Elizabeth Kosar sat on her first horse at the ripe old age of two. The highlight of her riding career was a routine performed to “Greased Lightning.” Unfortunately, no videos of this performance survive.
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