The Hall of Fame Gala, 2016

February 24, 2016


The excitement had been building for months, but on Friday, February 12th the wait was over as an unprecedented turn out of over 400 people gathered at the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame to welcome the newest members to the Hall of Fame; Hector Galindo, William “Billy” Post II, Richard “Remo” Riemenschneider, Russell Sheldon and the polo ponies Toy Moon and Califa.

Kicking off with the “Grand Reception” sponsored by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club, and Chukker TV, the glamorous group of polo stars, friends, families and fans were treated to their first glimpse of the recently completed new wing of the Museum that features an expansive new gallery space, a state of the art conferencing room, two smaller multi-functional exhibit/conference areas and a new library. The champagne flowed at the “Korbel Bubbles Bar” as the arriving crowd spilled into the new gallery space where they were able to mingle and get re-acquainted with old friends, enjoy a beautiful array of passed hors ‘oeuvres and peruse the Silent Auction while serenaded by the wonderfully talented songstress Victoria Cardona.

As the evening progressed everyone was invited into the pavilion to be seated for a sensational dinner sponsored and presented by John Wash and International Polo Club Palm Beach, with the wine and spirits for both the dinner and reception sponsored, thanks to Margaret Lipman Orthwein, by Lipman Brothers LLC, Brown Forman, Bacardi USA, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Fetzer and Jekel Vineyards and Korbel. Also helping to make the evening a successful fundraiser were Pam and Wayne Garrison who sponsored the evening’s entertainment, the great band Las Olas.

Melissa Ganzi, president of the museum, and Elbridge T. Gerry Jr. accepting for Toy Moon

As the dinner hour waned the awards ceremony began with the introduction of the “Horses to Remember. A great mare of “Yesteryear”, Toy Moon, was the first inductee of the night to be honored. A dapper Elbridge T. Gerry, Jr. was most happy to accept the award for Toy Moon a pony that played with brilliance under his Hall of Famer father, Elbridge T. Gerry, captain of the famed Aknusti team. “Ebby” gave a charming account of what a special pony she was and how he, and several of the others seated at their table who had joined to celebrate her award, had had the privilege of hacking around the family estate on the grand old lady Toy Moon in her later years.

Melissa Ganzi and Mariano Aquerre accepting for Califa

Califa was the next polo pony star to be honored. Accepting the award for owner Peter Brant, Mariano Aguerre rose to the occasion and, punctuated with some humorous quips, shared a genuine, moving and unscripted (“You stole my speech” he chided Chairman Marty Cregg who read the introductions) account of Califa’s storied career. Mariano was the man who forged the legendary relationship with the famous gelding Califa and together they have galloped their way into the history books.

The humans who have helped shape the sport were next to be honored, with the late polo pioneer Russell A. Sheldon, Jr. as the posthumous recipient of the Philip Iglehart Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to the Sport of Polo. His son Billy Sheldon, daughter Sherry Sheldon Gibson, grandchildren Shane and Danika Rice and other family members were here from California to accept the award supported by friends that came from coast to coast. Billy spoke eloquently for the family and the contagious passion, sincerity and spirit of giving that was a hallmark of his father’s influence on the sport came clearly through him and was felt by all.

Russell Sheldon's daughter, Sherry Sheldon Gibson, Melissa Ganzi and Billy Sheldon with the Iglehart Award for Russ Sheldon

A huge contingent turned out to celebrate with Iglehart Award winner Dick Riemenschneider, a great testimony to his dedication to the sport since 1949. “Remo” fans went wild as he approached the podium to accept his award and he did not disappoint. If the words dynamic and affable can be used in the same sentence to describe someone, it is Dick and it is clear that with those traits he has made an impact on the sport throughout the years and continues to do so today as he still serves as the Chairman of the Polo Training Foundation.

The daughter of William “Billy” Post II, Elizabeth Post was present to accept the award for her father, a dashing polo star born to ride and play polo and destined for greatness during the golden age of polo in the 1930s. “Betsy” gave a brief, charming acceptance but her most endearing moment was as she related that after she had been notified of the induction, she had been “living in the 30s since then.” Her pride was visible and one could only imagine her as a very young child looking at her father again through those eyes. 

Melissa Ganzi, Elizabeth Post and Marty Cregg, chairman of the museum

The final inductee to be honored was Hector Galindo and the place virtually erupted as Hector was called to the podium to accept his well-deserved award. Hector’s speech reflected the true champion that he is, and it was evident that he is so much more than a gifted player. He earned his way with hard work and persevered to achieve what he has and has always done so with a good nature that has endeared him to his fellow players and fans. But more importantly, he is someone who has set an example on and off the field as a gracious sportsman and has continued to mentor and give back to the sport that we all love.

The Museum is grateful to all its gracious sponsors and also to Alex Pacheco for his photographic support for the exhibits and the dinner, to Melinda Brewer for the portraits of the Horses to Remember, and to the great volunteers who helped make this wonderful event possible - Maria and Vincent Feola, Linda Clarke, Chris Vining, Farish Ensenat, Debra Massey, and Melanja Jones.

All photos courtesy of Alex Photography.