As a third year who has attended St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament every year, I feel I can confidently state that it exists in its own universe. If you’ll forgive the waxing of an anthropology student – I believe that the Polo tournament is uniquely situated between week eleven and revision – capitalising upon a unique climate which provides the perfect environment for a day of revelry and carefreeness. With most fourth years having submitted their dissertations and most first years not knowing what to expect from their first final exams, Polo is able to make the most of one last day of unbridled relaxation in between teaching and revision.
Scrolling my Instagram feed in the days following polo, it became abundantly clear to me that nearly everyone who attended the tournament seemed to have a total, profound lack of understanding of the rules and procedure of a polo match (myself included) – yet were totally fine with it. Mass attendance at an event which the main factor of which is little-understood speaks to the established iconic nature of polo as the tournament of the most well-loved and well-attended events of the second semester. Sure, Scotland’s largest ticketed polo event, one of the largest student-run polo events out there, is a great place to watch polo – but the St. Andrews Charity Polo Tournament is so much more than that. The tournament has become a social institution of sorts, consistently selling out – breaking records each year, and attracting guests and teams from around the world, this year including Harvard and Sydney University.
Polo, in its own way, is the final fashion show of the year. Everyone knows you have to dress to impress at Sitara or Don’t Walk, but the consideration which goes into the “dress code” of polo is unmatched by any other St. Andrean event. Combining spring with prep, fashionable with functional makes for a diverse and colourful sea of outfits – with floral tones, seersucker outfits and an abundance of Vineyard Vines and Barbours guaranteed elements of the day.
Aside from the philosophical and fashion elements of the day, the actual affair itself is a triumph of student event planning. In the seldom otherwise used venue of Errol Park (perhaps due to it being nearly an hour away from St. A), a veritable prepsters dream was constructed across the standard, VIP and VVIP areas. With floral arrangements, garden tents and lawn chairs sprinkled throughout the venue, it was easy to enjoy the day no matter which ticket level you were in. Even the weather cooperated, remaining relatively sunny throughout the day, with only a few fleeting sprinkles of rain.
The absence of loud music and distracting overstimulating elements which can beleaguer some other events allowed for guests to fleet in between attempting to follow along with the polo and casual discussions/mingling with their friends. With more than ten food vendors including Wild Fire Pizza, the Cheesy Toast Shack and Blackhorn among other St. Andrews favourites all guests were able to gorge themselves to their hearts delight throughout the day. VVIP guests were additionally treated to unlimited pastries and finger-sandwiches, the perfect foods for a spring polo match. This coupled with a bottle of Bouvet champagne each and an exclusive pitch-side area provided VVIP guests with a most worthwhile and satisfying day.
If you’ve ever attended polo, or even spoken to a friend who has, I don’t need to tell you the value of a VIP ticket. Perhaps the best value for money experience of the day, VIP guests enjoy the largest pitch-side area, having free-roam of the standard area as well.
Being a charity event, as so many here are, it’s important to remember what the proceeds of the day supported. Help for Heroes was again the charity this year, working towards the important cause of supporting our veterans.
The drama of the day found its home in the busing situation. Most VVIP and VIP guests were able to start the trek of a journey to Errol around the expected time, many standard guests were left waiting on South Street for more than an hour. By the time it got to 2 PM, with singular buses coming and going roughly every twenty minutes, more than a few people I spoke to decided to cut their loses and forgo attending all-together, considering that with travel time they’d have less than an hour to actually participate in the event.
With polo consistently selling out year after year, having become a hallmark of the busy event calendar and expertly carving out an established spot in nearly all St. Andreans hearts, one thing is for sure – polo is a classic event which I’m sure will only continue to increase in calibre and size with each passing year. As a fourth year said to me near the conclusion of the event, her years are measured in attendance at the charity polo tournament. As I rise to my fourth and final year, I look forward to fulfilling this rite of passage one final time – dressed head to toe in pastels.