22nd Annual Picnic & Polo Match Delivers Rapid City its second defeat in two years

Spectators, many who had turned out in their finest hats for a day of polo, had to hold onto them.  There was a storm a brewin’!  As expected, Hill City’s Rushmore Polo & Social Club stepped onto the field determined to hold onto the Paul E. Lippman Memorial Polo Cup for a second year in a row.  Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club had visions of taking the trophy back and so began the annual match on a pristine Saturday afternoon, August 25, 2012 at Newton Fork Ranch.  Before play commenced though, it was announced that this year’s event would be played in memory of Ed Winger who passed away last November.  Mr. Winger, a long-time Hill City resident along with his wife Jan, never missed a game.

When Jim Lammers threw the initial ball in, the play was fierce as the teams were evenly matched.  This year was no exception as the first chukker ended with local favorite Tim Gregson, captain of the Hill City team and Rapid City’s Kurt Ketelsen each scoring a goal.  Ketelsen, a third-generation polo player and Ellsworth area rancher, is a perennial crowd pleaser.  It should be noted that flag persons Rose Lammers and Jim DeNeui were relieved to have shared equal duties thus far.

The second chukker bore continued fruit as Tim, assisted by nephew Boe Gregson, a former NCAA indoor polo player, once again drove home a goal that was answered in short order by opposing member, and former buffalo rancher, Duane Lammers.  When timekeeper Mary Sitts sounded the halftime horn, the score was tied 2-2 and, it was rumored, Tim’s competitive frustration reached new heights.

With the first two chukkers completed, the players moved off field to water and rest their ponies while the spectators, with champagne glasses in hand, were invited to participate in the annual tradition of “stomping divots.”   There was much socializing in what has become an end-of-summer-season reunion of sorts.  Friends greeted each other and everyone toasted the remarkably mild weather.

The conviviality was soon followed by the debut of the “Arleen Lippman Hat Award.”   Mrs. Lippman, former owner of “A&H Grocery” on Main Street was well known for her fondness for hats.  Having owned more than 100, she was rarely sighted without one.  Spectators were encouraged to flex their creativity and about 20 contestants stepped forward to vie for Saturday’s trophy.  As Bob Stanfiel held a polo mallet aloft behind each competitor, the crowd voiced its approval.  It was soon narrowed down to three finalists: Mary Sitts of Rapid City with a western themed hat; Hill City’s own Moni Matush in a stunning black chapeau; and visiting ranch guest Lynn McGrath who had fashioned a hat featuring a log cabin scene out of twigs, flowers, foliage, and a Newton Fork Ranch brochure.  In a very close decision, crowd favorite McGrath of Chicago, IL secured the win.

When the game resumed, Rushmore Polo & Social Club came out fighting.  Angela Gregson quickly sent a shot on goal that severed the tie, making it 3-2.  Despite some terrific defensive maneuvering by Susie Lammers, a Sioux Falls resident playing for Rapid City, Team Gregson was on the offense.  Tim followed up Angela’s advance with another goal ending the third chukker 4-2 in favor of Hill City.

Kurt Ketelsen and Duane Lammers tried to regain their momentum with some impressive strong nearside and offside backhand shots up field but were unable to withstand the Hill City onslaught.  The Gregsons prevailed when the 4th chukker ended scoreless, handing Rushmore Polo & Social Club its second straight victory.

Afterwards, fans gathered to enjoy a picnic with lots of delicious food provided by guests, Moni Matush of the Alpine Inn, Wally Matush, and Newton Fork Ranch.  The celebrants enjoyed the rest of the gorgeous afternoon, recapping the game, visiting with friends, and relishing the burgers and hot dogs seasoned and served up by the culinary talents of Grill Chefs Bob Stanfiel and Rich Sitts.  And, to everyone’s delight, Chris Voyles plugged in her acoustic guitar and provided the celebrants with an impromptu concert.

The polo trophy is on permanent display in the bar area located in the historic Alpine Inn, on Main Street in Hill City.

Polo fans and tailgate impresarios Chuck Fritzel (left) and James Dean (right) hoist their martinis in a toast to the annual event.

Jan Winger is embraced by Mary Sitts, third place winner of the “Arleen Lippman Hat Contest” on the left and Hill City resident Sonja Karl on the right.

Carol and Wes Shafer are long-time polo fans and even longer Hill City residents. Wes has been in the area since the 1930s.

Seen here truly tailgating are, from left to right: Wally Matush of Hill City fame, Barb Gartner of Rapid City, Joan Schnell, down from her cattle ranch in Lemmon, ND, and Liz DeNeui, once a Hill City resident and now visiting from Port Hueneme, CA.

Hill City team captain Tim Gregson (#3 white) connects with an offside shot on goal as Rapid’s Duane Lammers (#3 red) attempts a defensive move. Tim’s teammate Angela Gregson (#1 white) moves to intercept while Kurt Ketelsen (#1 red) is in pursuit.

Rapid City players Duane Lammers (left) and Kurt Ketelsen (right) scramble after the ball as Hill City takes possession for a long drive down field.

Susie Lammers, having grown up on a cattle ranch west of Sioux Falls, demonstrates a natural athletic ability playing competitive polo for the first time.

Hill City native Jim DeNeui strikes an imposing stance as a goal line flagman.

Chicago, IL resident Lynn McGrath models her log cabin creation that took first place in the hat contest.

Meg Warder, Gail and Jon Crane are joined by Kristin Donnan Standard in the annual halftime tradition of champagne and “divot stomping.”

Bob Stanfiel holds a polo mallet above Mary Sitts’ head encouraging the audience to “voice their votes” while Moni Matush awaits her turn.

Rushmore Polo & Social Club player Boe Gregson (#2 white) prepares to connect with the ball as Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club member Duane Lammers (#3 red) attempts to hook Boe’s mallet in a defensive move.

Susie Lammers (#2 red) of Black Hills Polo Club blocks opposing team member Angela Gregson (#1 white) who, in turn, looks for back-up.

Rushmore player Angela Gregson (#1 white) takes possession of the ball as family members Boe and Tim provide support. Kurt Ketelsen (#1 red), Duane Lammers (#3 red), and Susie Lammers (out of photo range) rush to the defense.

Team captain Tim Gregson accepts the Paul E. Lippman Polo Cup on behalf of the Rushmore Polo & Social Club. This was their second straight win.

Tim Gregson cozies up to longtime friend and polo enthusiast Joan Schnell.

Hollywood in the Hills: Meg Warder whose 1880 Train has appeared in numerous movies and television shows is pictured enjoying the après game festivities with Duane Lammers (center) who provided buffalo for the “Dances With Wolves” movie, and Sean Covel (right) producer of the widely acclaimed film “Napoleon Dynamite.”

As the after party carries on into the evening, Bob Stanfiel with his chef duties behind him, retires under a stunning broad brim hat.

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