story and photos by Kaitlynn Bianconi
FAYETTEVILLE — “If you see the ball coming into the audience at you, please duck,” said 2012 Polo in the Ozarks emcee Jonathan Martinez, co-anchorman for KNWA-TV.
Galloping down a bright green field with a lot of divots, 10 horses and riders fled past, chasing a polo ball with long-handled mallets.
Although polo is not a typical American sport, the Polo in the Ozarks fundraiser for Life Styles Inc. is the largest match in the area. The polo match — along with its pre-match tailgates and post-match dinner and dancing under the stars — is one of the longest-running charity events in the area.
For the 23rd year, the event was hosted by Donna and Dr. Brian Buell at their farm in Goshen. The weather for Saturday’s (Sept. 8) affair was the best in recent history.
Life Styles is a nonprofit that helps disabled adults be active members of the community. The organization was founded in 1976 on the belief that community is for anyone, and that people with disabilities should be given the opportunity to participate.
With programs like Supported Living, Employment Services and College for Living, these adults are able to live on their own, have jobs and further their education beyond high school with no limitations.
At Polo in the Ozarks, there were over 200 silent auction donors. Gift certificates from small boutiques like Impressions and Something Urban, restaurants such as Gusano’s and Catfish Hole and numerous spa days were all available at the silent auction.
Live auction items included a dinner for 12 at Fowler House, the University of Arkansas chancellor’s home, hosted by Jane and Chancellor G. David Gearhart; five nights at the Tyson Family’s private residence in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; and $2,000 shopping spree at Romance Diamond among others.
For this year’s tailgate experience, donors represented any one of the 77 countries around the world where polo is played. From China to Italy, companies partnered with restaurants to see who could put the attention of most party-goers. Awards were given for Friendliest Tailgate (Northwest Arkansas Holiday Inn and Convention Center), Tastiest Tailgate (Penguin Ed’s and Milestone Construction) and Most Creative Tailgate (a tie: Mama Fu’s/Signature Bank of Arkansas and Eventures/Nibbles.
Pammie June Pointer and Dori Seddon have been going to the match since the beginning.
“I’ve lived in Fayetteville for 40 years have come here every year since it started [in 1990],” Seddon said. “We even had a horse in it one year. Everyone loved the Arabian.”
The two “Winner’s Circle," or presenting, donors each championed a team. The Wal-Mart team was in blue; the Wells Fargo team in white. Wal-Mart won 5-4. Dr. Brian Buell was named MVP.
Event organizers hoped to beat the goal of last year, when they raised just over $100,000.