Wait, there’s a Gay Polo League? And it’s international! The arrival of the Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament lets us all know that April has arrived in Florida.
Many may not know that just west of West Palm Beach, it’s horse country in Florida and the location of the National Polo Center in Wellington. The geography and feel is unlike any other you see in any other part of the state. It has its own fields, pastures, and presence when you drive through Wellington, and onto the grounds of the National Polo Center.
The Gay Polo League (GPL) is the only LGBTQ polo league in the world!
GPL is committed to providing its members with unique, supportive and competitive experiences around the globe. We’re a community that shares a love for adventure, fun, and the beautiful, challenging sport of polo.
Held at the National Polo Center in Wellington, North America’s only high goal polo venue, the International Gay Polo Tournament draws top GPL players and avid spectators from around the globe for a weekend of grand horseplay. Mixing one part serious competition and one part lighthearted party, this event is all about sharing a love for adventure, fun and the challenging sport of polo. Created to generate awareness and to move the needle forward for LGBTQ athletes, the event works to ensure athletes not only have the same opportunities, but also a safe place to learn, grow and excel in their sport. Since its inception, the priority has remained to raise a significant amount of money in support of diversity and inclusion initiatives for other LGBTQ organizations.
In 2022, the GPL raised $135,000 to benefit onePULSE Foundation. The 2023 event will again benefit onePULSE Foundation, an organization created after the tragic events at Pulse Nightclub in 2016, where 49 people lost their lives. The onePULSE Foundation funds scholarships and hopes to build a national LGBTQ Museum to honor the victims.
There were many events that week building up to the final two big happenings, WIGSTOCK on Friday night and the GPL final matches on Saturday, The Founders Cup and The Senators Cup. These days were what most of the public attended and purchased passes to.
It was highly recommended that you came wearing a wig to Wigstock, and one of the biggest wigs of them all was supposed to be there, Lady Bunny was going to entertain. Unfortunately, the lady broke a heel or sprained an ankle or something, and could not attend, but luckily Roxy Andrews was able to fill-in. Which I think this is a great thing because the charity the GPL was raising money for this year was one pulse Orlando and Roxy herself had worked at the Pulse nightclub for many years. She shared some stories about her nights working there, the friends she made, the atmosphere, and you could tell that there was still care and pride for Pulse Orlando in her voice in and her heart. Not only did she dug in her heartstrings, but she also did some great performances.
The next days activities were hot, hot hot. It was a hot day in the southern Florida sun. I think I melted three times over so make sure you hydrate, bring your big bonnets or hats, and wear something that’s breathable or looks good all sweaty and wet. And there was not a shortage of hot men, both playing on the field, riding the horses, but I also in the stands, in the booths, and the tents, everywhere. It was a great fun mix of South Florida gays from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale to Miami and then further. Some you recognized and some you wanted to get to know. One organization even charted a bus from Fort Lauderdale to bring its employees up to the event. Other organizations came early and set up tents alongside the field and partied all day in their themed-out digs with their food and bevies they brought with them.
If you think about attending the GPL’s events next year, I would look at being part of a night activity where you could actually meet some of the polo players as they were all generally wonderful people, and very easy on the eyes. But knowing these individuals may make you watch the matches a little more the next day. I think many of the gays just went to see and be seen and that was totally fine, too. And yes, they were a ton of straight people there as well, and maybe some of the horses were straight to, but we’re not sure about that yet. I would also consider renting out a space alongside the field, bringing your own tent, food, beverages, and inviting a slew of your friends to take in an event that many Americans will never see in person. And it’s a gay event that!
When doing excursions outside of Fort Lauderdale, I do jump at the chance to do an overnighter and one of the other south Florida cities. Miami and Key West get my night visits often but exploring, West Palm Beach, I need to do more of that, so I did take this GPL weekend as an opportunity to see more of WPB.
One of the best hotel stays in southern Florida still for me has to be what I experience at The Ben West Palm, Autograph Collection, Marriott. It’s a hotel that is straddling everything, being steps from downtown West Palm Beach, a simple shuttle ride to the Palm Beaches, and even shorter ride to the Brightline train station, and just a little bit longer trek to the Atlantic Ocean beachfront. The clientele, accommodations, restaurants, views, amenities are all upscale, without having or possessing a pretentious way about them. You’re in luxury, you’re getting luxury, but you’re not forced to play the pretentious games that may come with elite lodging and surroundings. All level patrons are present and they’re all there for one thing, to enjoy what The Ben has to offer.
Since it was my birthday weekend, splurging on the belly was going to be at the top of my list, and West Palm Beach provided me with multiple opportunities to get my food on. One of the first places I went to, for dining was Kapow Noodle Bar. Elevated Asian St., Food comes to mind and the mouth. Both the waiter and manager were very helpful (and hot) and assisted me in ordering the correct surprises for my belly. From sticky ride to cauliflower to steamed buns to crack fries, I was satisfied. I do wish they had a location closer to me in Fort Lauderdale, but the closest is Boca.
One note to make, every Friday the city would shut down that part of Clematis Street. The rest of the street on the eastern side of the tracks would shut down for a farmer’s market for Saturday morning, but Friday night was for Drag in front of Kapow and its neighbor Hullabaloo, the host of the drag evening. It was good drag, a great stage, had a community feel, and it’s one of the very few LGBTQ offerings in West Palm Beach as one of their queer bars, H.G. Roosters, had a fire just as the pandemic started and has not rebuilt yet, but did break ground on the rebuild last October, and the other space, Mad Hatter, I believe was being remodeled.
Before I departed West Palm Beach to return to Fort Lauderdale, I had to try out Elisabetta’s Ristorante, which is right across the one-way street from The Ben. Once checked out and leaving my luggage at The Ben, I walked over to the restaurant – bar – pizzeria and had homemade pasta like I haven’t had in such a long time. I now know what real homemade pasta is supposed to taste like as I had the PAZZESCO – mixed shapes with sausage, meatballs, beef ragu, ricotta. I was so full, the cheese cake had to come home with me since I did start with the TOASTED ARTISAN BREADS – butter, jam, ricotta. I also was impressed with the building itself, looking like it had been there for decades or even a century, the structure is just a handful of years old.
The meal that brought the whole experience home was the one I knew would steal the weekend, Almond. Across the intercoastal to Palm Beach was a shorter distance to go than to the original Almond in Bridgehampton, NY. Gay owned, this restaurant will be where I take my future husband for those special nights. The service was effortless with a dance of runners, waitress, and hosts doing what they do best. Bread was served along with my appetizer of lamb meatballs, two amazing mocktails, and a dessert of sticky date cake and ice cream. But I must shout from the roof tops that the duck entrée they have worked on and served me was the best duck dish I have ever had – SMOKED DUCK BREAST – baby bok choy, General Tso’s eggplant, kimchi, house brewed sriracha. No, those combinations may not be for everyone, but all worked elegantly with a heat that kept me wanting more and the cuts of duck were unbelievable, simply astonishing.
The Gay Polo League has a special place in my heart, as it was the focus of the first press trips I ever attended while working for Instinct Magazine. I enjoyed attending alone and making new friends, but I may build my own team to go and watch next time.
West Palm Beach and its surrounding area, known as the Palm Beaches, is also growing on me, as it has become much easier to travel from Fort Lauderdale via the Brightline. And with great additions to the area, like The Ben and the rebuilding of H.G. Roosters, we do hope good things for the area. And I will keep checking back on the Palm Beaches website for new events I may find interesting.