On Sundays We Play Polo

(This article first appeared in the June 14, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


Weekend dwellers across the East End are faced with the commuting dilemma of when to come and when to leave. Traffic across both forks becomes more congested than the heat outside, especially down those single lane roadways. For the Westward bound on Sundays, there’s a perfect pit stop along the way.

Bethpage Polo at the Park located in Bethpage State Park, between the Long Island Expressway and Southern State Parkway, holds their weekly Sunday polo matches. Ideal for those in fancy hats and ball-caps alike, the polo grounds accommodate all types of people and groups. Lounge in the VIP tent with endless light bites, open bar, and live DJ, or pack a picnic to sit in the grandstands. The wide open field allows for guests to enjoy a beautiful view from all angles.

The polo grounds at Bethpage State Park date back to 1934, a long history unknown to many Long Islanders. What makes this location special is the family-friendly environment. Here, the “sport of kings” captivates the audience of its entire kingdom.

Polo at the Park CEO, Bob Ceparano, remains intricately connected to the polo community through numerous endeavors, including running Country Farms, a polo and equestrian center located in Medford. From the grass roots to the tip of the mallets, this is certainly a community with open arms.

The gates open at 2 PM, the match begins at 3 PM, with a typical playing time of two hours. In between each 7.5 minute chukkers (periods), spectators are encouraged to visit the trailers to meet the players and ponies. While the games are played weekly, weather permitting, there are some festive days on the calendar to look forward to with new ones potentially being added as the season goes on.

This Sunday, bring dear ol’ dad for a new kind of Father’s Day outing. On July 2, photographers will gather for Photography Day; July 9 is the Bridgehampton National Bank Cup; July 30 will have special vendors for Ladies Day, with the following week on August 6 (and September 3) dedicated toward Kids Day; August 13 is Artist Day; September 16 is the highly anticipated Harriman Cup, a match between University of Virginia and Yale University; September 17 is the Long Island Pulse private tent event; and closing day is October 8.

The high-energy sport of polo calls to an audience of all ages, to all locations. What better way to enjoy a Sunday than with an extreme sport, good company, and greenery? Make Bethpage Polo at the Park your new Sunday Funday.

Nikki On The Daily is the seasonal manager of the VIP Tent & Events, along with social media for Bethpage Polo at the Park

Meadowbrook Polo Club: Polo from Yesterday of Today

Founded in 1881, Meadowbrook Polo Club (formally Meadow Brook) is the oldest polo club in America where upward of 30,000 people would attend matches regularly in the 1930s. Imagine packed Long Island Railroad trains, congested roadways with thousands of tourists, souvenir vendors and fashionable attire. This was the original equine hot-spot before the Belmont Stakes.

Location, location, location! Situated only 20 miles out of New York City, at Hitchcock Field off of Whitney Lane and Polo Drive in Old Westbury, two polo fields are staged amid the wealth of Long Island’s Gold Coast. It is a club deserving of fame with the largest mass of people center to the largest mass amount of wealth.

“It’s so prestigious that we’re trying to get more sponsors and players involved with the club,” CEO of the grounds, Bob Ceparano explained.

Several top players in the sport frequent the grounds such as Mattias Migrini, Pedro Manion and rising star Torito Ruiz, among numerous others. Though currently matches are free to the public the future of M.P.C. aims to restore its mass attraction (slowly but optimistically).

A trio of enterprises, Meadowbrook Polo Club merged with Country Farms Equestrian Center and Bethpage Polo at the Park. Locals and tourists can enjoy exciting polo matches four times a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to a winter season of both indoor and arena polo.

Polo remains a community game, from equine admirers, sport enthusiasts to riders alike. This Thursday, June 29th, have the chance to meet the world renowned players, sponsors and patrons of today that make Long Island polo the exceptional sport it is.

After the matches at Meadowbrook there will be a Kick-Off Summer Bash taking place at Westbury Manor  from 7:30PM – 10:30PM with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Open to the public, ticket’s are only $25 and can be purchased here.

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Bethpage Polo at the Park: It Takes 3

One of the key reasons any of us to go watch a sport live and in person is to feel that connection to the players, to the crowd, to the atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if you know the names of who’s playing, when you’re there watching a game you suddenly feel as though you make a difference. Who hasn’t screamed at the top of their lungs, almost convinced that the louder the scream the better the chance of winning? Or yelling out someone’s name as though your words of encouragement, or discouragement, will affect the athletes performance?

Polo is no different. The more familiar you are about who you’re watching, or hearing, the more involved you become. Although, being that the atmosphere is a bit more intimate, discouraging profanities are preferred to be left at the gate.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the season debut of Bethpage Polo at the Park. Now, I think it’s time to learn about some of the people that make up this fantastic sport.

Here are 3 people that YOU should know:

Cristian Vasquez.

He’s been at the Bethpage grounds playing polo for 16 years, having started in 1999, and known me for almost just as long, being the very reason I am a part of the polo family.

What’s he think about this season?

“Every year keeps getting bigger and bigger. People seem to be enjoying the game, coming to meet the players. We see new people coming every weekend. I think it’s great for the sport.”

The thrill of the game for him is the people. Hearing the roaring crowd gives him the rush he needs. So, next time you’re in the stands or under the tents make sure you bring your outdoor voice!

Want to root for the horses too? Cristian typically rides 3 ponies: Natasha, Biminy, and Doz

My favorite Polo Brothers
Juan Vasquez [left] Cristian Vasquez [right]
Juan Vasquez

At our polo grounds the best things come in 2s. In this case it’s the Vasquez brothers.

Juan has been playing polo for 25 years and is Bethpage Polo at the Park’s key referee. If you think there’s an unfair call on the field take it up with this guy!

He enjoys the comradery that comes with the sport of polo. There’s a connection between the players, the horses, the fans. These aspects all make up why he gets on the field.

Want to know more about Juan? It all comes down to the fact that he’s “Sexy, single, bi lingual, ready to mingle!”

Jerry Napp

Jerry, who I previously compared to Bob Sheppard, is the voice of Bethpage Polo at the Park.

Jerry Napp- photo courtesy of Debra Napp
Jerry Napp- photo courtesy of Debra Napp

While he has played competitively for 52 years, he and his wife Debbie (who you can find behind the camera lens every Sunday) have played for 25 years together.

Upon trading in his mallet for a microphone Jerry became the announcer for the grounds at Meadowbrook and other fields, now solely at Bethpage.

“The transformation is amazing at Bethpage Polo at the Park. [Bob] is so determined, so dedicated to bringing polo to the larger audience….once you get involved in polo there’s no way out.”

Being a part of this community for so long, having seen it go through such miraculous transformation and growth, if there’s one thing Jerry could tell all of us it’s to

“Learn that this is a game most people think of as elitist and for people with big hats, but it is so much more than that. It’s for everyone.”

He loves the people most. From the crowd to staff polo is a place of dedication to the sport and love of the game. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Next time you’re out at Bethpage Polo at the Park you’ll now recognize these 3, friendly faces. Well, 4 including myself. We look forward to seeing you there!

On Sundays We Play Polo