Calgary Polo History

It’s a cloudy day here in Calgary today, with thunderstorms looming. I’m worried that polo might be postponed this evening, but for the most part, it’s been an incredible summer, weather-wise and polo-wise. Simon the polo ponyIn fact, Calgary has a long history of amazing polo. I’m standing with a piece of it in this photo — my horse, Simon, has been playing in the area for decades. For those of you who missed it in this month’s edition of Calgary Polo Style, here’s my article on our local Sport of Kings:

Deep Roots in the Old West

Calgary polo had its beginnings as the sport of cowboys

Polo is known as the sport of kings, but in Calgary it would be more accurate to call it the sport of cattle ranchers. Long before organized rodeo blazed a trail through the Canadian West, polo was a cowboy sport.

Formed in 1890, the Calgary Polo Club is the arguably the oldest in North America with consecutive annual play. Thanks to Southern Alberta’s passion for horses, the club not only survived two world wars and the Great Depression, it flourished. Even though the local equestrian community kept the sport alive in typical low-key cowboy style, there have been plenty of bold-faced names along the way.

Alfred Ernest (A.E.) Cross, best known for being one of the “Big Four” cattlemen who founded the Calgary Stampede in 1912, was a polo lover first. He established the Calgary Polo Club in 1890, along with several friends from the exclusive Ranchmen’s Club. Although his A7 Ranche is said to be the oldest ranch in Canada still in the hands of its original owners, Montreal-born Cross was more than a cattleman. His professional pursuits included the brewing business, the film industry and politics.

Not to be outdone, Henry Bruen Alexander, the first president of the Calgary Polo Club, built some of downtown Calgary’s most impressive sandstone buildings. His real estate legacy includes the Alexander Block, which still stands on Stephen Avenue.

Calgary polo was also buoyed by many of the remittance men who came to Wild Rose Country to expand their fortunes. Originally from England, Colin Ross was one of those “drawn to the profit potential in western Canada’s burgeoning cattle kingdom,” according to the Historical Society of Alberta. After using family money to invest in property in the foothills, his obsession with polo led him to be known as a millionaire polo player. In 1907, the Los Angeles Times raved about his unbeaten Calgary team, which traveled across North America to meet rivals’ challenges. 

All of these men most likely played at Owen’s Race Track, in today’s Elbow Park. It was rented by the Ranchmen’s Club for polo games and “manly sports,” duly noted in the Minutes of Ranchmen’s Club Committee in August, 1895. Also in the minutes, and true to polo-party form, gaining approval for a license to sell beer was a top priority. And despite the official written record, the manly sport of polo wasn’t limited to men. As early as the 1920s, a women’s team organized in both Kamloops and Calgary traveled to the first international women’s tournament in New York.

As the city of Calgary grew and developed, the Polo Club hopscotched through several pieces of real estate, including fields in Hillhurst and Chinook Park. In 1959, Jim Cross (son of A.E.) helped the club put down its final roots by providing land in Okotoks.

As the club settled into its new surroundings, the aggressive sport of polo continued to attract aggressive business leaders. Mr. Charles Hetherington, President and CEO of Panarctic Oils Ltd,received his USPA rating in Calgary in 1959, eventually serving as Canadian governor for the association. Playing into his 70s, his enthusiasm still infuses every game played at the Hetherington Field at Calgary Polo Club.

Meanwhile, history marched on — so much so that it alarmed Fred Mannix Sr., an avid player since 1957. Mannix commissioned author Tony Rees to write a book about the history of polo in Calgary. Interviews with “old-timers,” as Mannix fondly calls them, not only led to lost trophies, but a wealth of material that couldn’t be limited to Calgary. The book, now proudly displayed on many a coffee table, became a much larger project, ultimately titled Polo, The Galloping Game: An illustrated history of polo in the Canadian West.

Some of the players featured in Rees’s book are still on the field. With its 10-player dynasty, the Roenisch family is particularly noteworthy. Clinton “Kink” Roenisch started playing in 1933, at age 44, instilling a passion for the game throughout his clan, continuing to the fourth generation with Daniel, who plays as a 3-goal professional at the Calgary Polo Club today. Daniel benefits from double Southern Alberta polo DNA:  not only was his dad, Rob, a 5-goal professional at his peak, his mother Julie was the top-rated female player in Canada with a two-goal handicap and the first woman ever to play in the U.S. Open. She also helped to bring serious women’s polo back to the club for the first time in half a century.

Besides ensuring past history was duly noted,Fred Mannix has helped power the future of Calgary polo, by passing his love of the sport to his sons, Fred Junior and Julian.

The brothers compete in the World Polo Tour with their team, Alegria. 22-year old Julian, rated four goals, wears Alegria’s maple-emblazoned team jersey for North American competitions, leading the team to victory in the US Open this spring.

Fred Junior takes over for matches played in the mecca of polo — Argentina. A rare combination of patron and pro, 29-year-old Fred is one of the world’s best players, rated six goals in North America and nine goals internationally. Perhaps, after making Team Canada when he was just sweet sixteen, the stage was set for this Calgarian to make history. In a sport that only a few hundred Canadians play, he’s the first in 76 years to compete for the coveted Argentine Triple Crown. He’s the second Canadian in 120 years to compete in the Argentine Open. This summer he’s back on home turf, training for the forty-goal polo waiting for him this fall in Argentina.

Besides the local ranchers, pros and CEOs, the Calgary Polo Club has had no shortage of visiting VIPs. Actors Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black, The Fugitive) and William Devane (Knots Landing, 24) have played in club tournaments. Flames goalie Mike Vernon traded his hockey stick for a mallet a few times. Jetting in from England, Prince Charles took time out from Stampede to take in a match and the professional head of the British Army, Charles Guthrie, stick and balled at the club. Lady Patricia Mountbatten Brabourne has also been a recurring field-side fan.

As the historic Calgary Polo Club plays its 2014 summer season, those bold-faced names, along with all the unsung heroes of the sport and the club, continue to write and rewrite the story of polo in Calgary.

To read the full issue of Calgary Polo Style, look for it at the Glencoe Club, Ranchmen’s Club, Bankers Hall Club, Silver Springs Golf & Country Club, Eau Claire YMCA, Calgary Winter Club and Bearspaw Country Club.Blue Besos

Polo Style Magazine Launch

Calgary Polo Style MagazineI’ve always said that polo is a stylish sport, but now you don’t have to take my word for it — Calgary Polo Style makes it official.Anders Knudsen Red Point MediaThe launch of the new magazine (brought to you by the folks behind Avenue) took place at the Calgary Polo Club, natch, with cocktails and the Canadian Open. Anders Knudsen of Red Point Media offered up an athletic bowl-in for the 20-goal game.Calgary Polo Style MagazineHis brogues were made for bowl-ins.Fred Mannix Calgary Polo ClubNot many people in Calgary realize that polo is played here all summer long, just half an hour south of the city. Seven fields are just waiting for folks to roll up backwards in good ol’ gas guzzling SUVs and tailgate while taking in a game, like those watching Fred Mannix in jersey number 4 trying to keep an eye on the action behind him, without getting steamrollered in the process.Rich Roenisch bronzesFred Junior and the other players were motivated by Rich Roenisch’s beautiful bronze trophies.Ranch House Calgary Polo ClubThe Ranch House had plenty of seating on its grand balcony overlooking the field, but I found it easier to avoid wardrobe malfunction by standing. Shoulders back!Miles Durrie, Calgary Polo Style MagazineThose in the know, like Miles Durrie, Editor of Polo Style, always seem to end up on the berm, where the height offers fabulous viewing … and great acoustics for all those swear words in Espanol. Calgary Polo Club playersThe berm is also where The Men Of Polo tend to hang out if they’re not playing…Calgary Polo ClubCalgary Polo ClubCalgary Polo ClubCalgary Polo Club … with their eagle eyes on Julian Mannix, keeping his focus despite the pressure from the opposing team.Tory Burch WedgesBack to footwear. It’s important to make the right choice for a night that includes a divot stomp. Wedges work wonders for the ladies, especially when they’re Tory Burch.Divot Stomp Calgary Polo ClubThe divot stomp is really just a jaunty half-time opportunity for a fashion show on the field.Calgary Polo Club StyleThis Calgary Polo Style reader shows his support in style.Anne Evamy, Anders KnudsenCalgary Polo Club President Anne Evamy talks speech strategy with Anders. They’ve got both the verticals and the horizontals covered.Calgary Polo Style MagazineBesides cataloguing the good life surrounding my favorite sport, Calgary Polo Style puts players in the spotlight. Not only did I make the official roster (yes, you’re reading that right, I’m a minus one — and I’m in good company)…Calgary Polo Style Magazine…I may have written an article or two for the magazine. Now that I’m a writer, instead of a television journalist, I spend a lot less time on my hair.

If you didn’t receive a copy in the mail or with your Globe & Mail newspaper, check out the free stands at the Glencoe Club, Ranchmen’s Club, Bankers Hall Club, Silver Springs Golf & Country Club, Eau Claire YMCA, Calgary Winter Club and Bearspaw Country Club. Congrats on the launch, Polo Style!

Blue Besos

Nordstrom Stampede Social

Nordstrom Stampede SocialNordstrom doesn’t open until September, but the party’s already started. Good strategy. Any store that hosts a Stampede Social will fit in to the Calgary way of doing things just fine.John Bailey NordstromJohn Bailey, PR Manager for Nordstrom, came in from Seattle for a little boot-scooting fun in Cowtown. When Chinook opens in Calgary, it will be the first Canadian location for the century-old American department store. Welcome to town, John! And don’t worry, that’s not The Thing on your shoulder, it’s just my hand.Sebastian BravoBecause Nordstrom’s Stampede Social was at Hotel Arts, I had to stop in to Yellow Door Bistro to say hi to the man with the coolest name in the city: Sebastian Bravo. He’s spreading good karma with Mealshare, adding “buy one give one” items to the Yellow Door menu.The Bloggity Blog DudeMeanwhile, back at the party, Mike Morrison of the Bloggity Blog showed off his Stampede style with his new Paul Hardy cowboy shirt. Check out Paul’s CS Mercantile boutique at Stampede here.Hotel Arts pool And –aaah– the pool. Hotel Arts has wisely located a bar just steps away. With this Stampede heatwave, it always seems to be time for a cold one. Nice drinking with you, Nordstrom — looking forward to shopping with you!Blue Besos

Paul Hardy’s Stampede Style

Paul Hardy CS MercantileDon’t be fooled by his “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” look — Paul Hardy’s just getting his cowboy on. Which is only appropriate, since the internationally renowned fashion designer has partnered with Calgary Stampede to take souvenir shopping to a stylish new level.

The richest rodeo on earth initially asked him to design a private label, but Paul declined after realizing their store wasn’t quite up to his brand standards: “They don’t like me saying this, but they were catering to the carnies.”

Them fighting words only whet the whistle of Stampede execs, who then asked Paul if he’d like to be the creative director of all their product merchandise. Opting to become the Oprah of favorite western things, Paul agreed, and CS Mercantile was born.Paul Hardy CS MercantileUnder Paul’s direction, overt Calgary Stampede branding has been dialed down. Instead, he opted for a subconscious association with Stampede colors of red, white and black, traveling the globe to find exclusive items he felt reflected Calgary culture– ie, ones that can exist outside the ten days of Stampede, like this gorgeous, subtle wolf scarf. (Shopping hint:  they’re rolled up in that basket to the left).CS Mercantile home decorPaul believes Stampede style is more urban western lifestyle than costume, hence the home decor items. “Everyone in town has a small section of their closet that is western apparel for ten days,” he says. “But as Calgary evolves, becoming a global center of finance, we’ve become a lot more cosmopolitan and a lot more diverse in our culture. People are starting to interpret Western in their own way.”Paul Hardy CS MercantileYou can still find souvenir T-shirts, but they’re interspersed with paintings by Calgary artist Jane McCloy, inspired by the historic photography of Edward S. Curtis. Coincidentally, in his mission of curation, Paul sourced other products inspired by Edward Curtis’ photos, including Pendleton blankets, coffee table books and a belt buckle.Paul Hardy Calgary StampedeEven though the buckles aren’t officially Paul Hardy designs, his collaboration has influenced almost every aspect of the CS Mercantile collection, from graphics design, to packaging, to piping on shirts.Paul Hardy CS MercantilePaul’s fave belt buckle. Mine too!Paul Hardy CS MercantileBesides the high-end fashion items, there’s a whole bunch of novelty going on, with prices on rubber duckies and tattoos that dip below ten bucks.Rubber Duckies CS MercantileTattoos CS MercantilePaul Hardy CS MercantileMeanwhile, if you have a few more doubloons in your saddlebag, Paul has some of his own jewelry for sale, at a lower price point than usual.Paul Hardy CS MercantileYou can find CS Mercantile at the Grandstand until July 13th, with the online store continuing in virtual foreverness. Will we be seeing a future Paul Hardy-curated trading post off Stampede grounds, in the wild west of Calgary retail? Paul hints that there’s a possibility he may soon have another place to hang his hat.Blue Besos

Parade Marshal William Shatner

William Shatner Calgary StampedeCaptain Kirk, Denny Crane, Bill — whatever you call him, the 2014 Stampede Parade Marshal has arrived in Calgary. Note those suspenders he’s wearing, because they’re a style statement.William Shatner Calgary StampedeFacing the media today before he faces the throngs along the parade route tomorrow, William Shatner took all questions. Including my urgent fashion query.

ME:  ”What will you be wearing tomorrow?”

BILL:  ”Black underwear. And suspenders.”William Shatner Calgary StampedeLuckily Stampede President Bob Thompson swooped in to give Bill a belt buckle, which will add a little more coverage.Beautiful Bill Shatner

This isn’t William Shatner’s first rodeo. He’s won a few buckles in his day, breeds horses and has ridden just about every style imaginable. Of course, I had to ask him if he ever played polo. Nope. “I like my knees,” he says, telling me he has a few friends who have taken a beating playing the sport. But he’s ridden polo ponies. “They’re indefatigable. They never stop. They just keep going.” My horse Simon says Bill is right.William Shatner Calgary StampedeBill charmed us all. Even us hardened media types. See you at the parade!Blue Besos

Happy Stampede!

Calgary Stampede policeThe 2014 Calgary Stampede doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but the parties have already started. The city is a-rustle with boots and spurs. Even Calgary’s finest are Stetson-ready to keep the cowboy peace during the world’s richest rodeo. Stay safe, but not too safe. Happy Stampede!Blue Besos

Canada Day Polo

Canada Day Calgary Polo Club 2014O, Canada! O, Canada!Where else would you want to spend Canada Day? The Calgary Polo Club celebrated our country’s birthday in style, with two polo games and tailgating to the max.O, Canada!The 20-goal game, Alegria vs Hawks, was a fast-paced match and thrilling to watch. Nice reach, Fred.O, Canada!But it was tough to concentrate on the game, with a record crowd partying in grand Canada Day style, along the edge of Palmer Field.Canada Day Calgary Polo ClubFormer event planner (and American!) Heather Lilly took Canadian color-coordination to a whole new level with her multi-tiered treats. Canada Day Calgary Polo ClubSpectators competed in a foot mallet competition between games, discovering that hitting those balls can be a little tricky. Canada Day Calgary Polo ClubBack to the real game. It’s always nice when there’s a throw-in right in front of your tailgate. Calgary Polo Club Canada DayBut in this instance, may I suggest utilizing the zoom function?Canada Day Calgary Polo ClubLuckily, the play moved away from the sidelines, and Mr. One was ok. Happy Canada Day!

Blue Besos

Team Blue Besos!

Calgary Polo ClubThe first game of Calgary Polo Club’s 2014 season was the perfect time to debut the official team jerseys of… wait for it… Team Blue Besos! In Club League, we’re assigned new team members each week:  three regular players and a professional. Even though these guys may be my mortal enemies next week, last night they were the best teammates a girl could have. That’s super-pro four-goaler Big Joe Henderson, from South Africa, on the left. Moi and Simon, next. Doug Byblow playing his inaugural Calgary game. And Francesco Galdon, whose Argentinian heritage means he has polo in his DNA.Tiffany Burns and SimonSimon can barely contain his excitement about our new shirts.Blue Besos jerseyJust look at them! Kudos to Cal-Crests Ltd. The Calgary custom apparel company did a stylish, speedy job.Tiffany Burns Blue BesosThe same Blue Besos dream team plays again this Saturday at 11am, in a Club League round robin:  6 chukkers of fantasticness. For fans of either polo or tailgating:  come out and enjoy both at the Calgary Polo Club. Gracias for the superb team photos, Heather Lilly!

Blue Besos


Holts Pre-Stampede Style Shindig

Jeanne Beker Calgary Holt RenfrewWhen I bumped into fashion icon Jeanne Beker at Holt Renfrew last night, it made perfect sense:  we were in the shoe department. The last time I’d seen her was in the makeup chair beside me at the Chum Building on Queen Street West in Toronto. Before the massive media amalgamation in Canada, all of Moses Znaimer’s stations were housed in the same super-cool building with the news truck sticking out of the side, three stories up. With shows for Fashion Television, Bravo, Much Music, CityTV, CP24 and more being produced in the same place, it made for some fun moments in the makeup room. Fast-forward several years and one Order of Canada later — the snowflake pin is always a sure sign. Besides being in Calgary to emcee the HR charity event, Jeanne tells me she has a “big, fat new project” up her sleeve.

“I’m chomping at the bit,” she says, using a metaphor from the Stampede-approved list of cowboy colloquialisms. “It’s been two years since the show was cancelled. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a new project.”

But beyond mysterious references to the digital nature of said project, Jeanne wouldn’t reveal any details. Hard to believe she resisted my tough questions couched in charming banter, but she’s a pro. She did talk fashion with me, though, assuring me it’s more than runways. She believes fashion is embodied by people, and it’s all about character. I agree, Jeanne. Love fashion, love life!Sam Edney LugerThe pre-Stampede party at Holts Calgary was a benefit for Calgary Health Trust, and the bold-faced names were out to lend their support, including luger Sam Edney, four-time Olympian.Matt Masters CalgaryCountry western singer Matt Masters was a natural choice for this hay bale photo op. His shirt’s a classic by Caravan, a Calgary company from the fifties and sixties. Yes, he does thrift shops. Although Matt tells me he lassos most of his cowboy gear when he’s on tour. His best finds are in Texas, natch, and in Mexico. He’ll be performing throughout Stampede, including CBC Radio’s morning show on Canada Day.Ryan Scott and Greg ScottThe already impeccably attired Ryan Scott, left, and Gregg Scott, of Scott Lease and Land, told me they weren’t at the invite-only charity event to update their wardrobes — they were on the lookout for ladies. Seems like they go for the strong, silent types!Cowboy Hat The Style GuysA celebrity auction featured one-of-a-kind cowboy hats. I had to find the guys who made this Stampede stetson, made by Canadian jewellery designer Anzie Stein, look so good.The Style Guys and Tiffany BurnsEven with pressing business with Cher and Cyndi Lauper, the Style Guys, aka Jason Krell and Alykhan Velji, took time to bookend and say cheese, while I hoped my sweaty post-polo situation would be perceived as party glow. Thanks guys! And thanks to everyone who helped out Calgary Health Trust’s Best Beginning Program.

Blue Besos

Kaleo’s Cerebral Pop Art

Kaleo Scars and BarsIf you saw President Obama up against the Confederate flag, would it stop you in your tracks? On a recent meander through the Calabasas Fine Arts Festival (yes, the Californian region of recent Bieber and Kardashian renown), this painting compelled me to ask the artist what the heck it meant. Which, it turns out, is the whole point of Kaleo’s “cerebral pop art” — and so integral that he’s trademarked the phrase.

“I really love pop art, in and of itself,” says Kaleo. “But I wanted to create layers and do something that actually gets people to think, rather than just enjoy the image. I wanted to evoke more emotion.”

Scars and Bars certainly rouses a reaction. Some folks love it. Others have told him that he shouldn’t have put Obama on the Dixie flag (!!). For Kaleo, who grew up poor in Pasadena, the love child of a European-American mother and a Hawaiian-Spanish-Puerto Rican father, the dialog around this piece makes its own statement. “It shows far we’ve come since the time of the Dixie flag to have a black president elected… and yet how far we still have to go.”Kaleo Calabasa Fine Arts FestivalBesides being thoughtful, down to earth and charming, Kaleo is a natural hustler, faux-hawked and hawking his art at fairs around LA. He’ll hit ten in total this year, all while promoting his brand through every social media channel going. Celebrity obsession juxtaposed against a commercialized image to tell a story that’s in our collective consciousness? I’m in! After viewing the “Images of Irony” in his tent gallery, I had to see more.Real Office Center Santa MonicaWhen Kaleo invited me to his studio in Santa Monica, I didn’t expect it to be at the Real Office Center on Arizona. As he gives me a tour of the space for small companies, I start to understand why. Real Office Center Santa MonicaWith Kaleo in the house, besides being a business incubator, the Santa Monica ROC location is also an artist incubator — although Kaleo seems to have the exclusive. His art adorns almost every surface in the building. Real Office Centers CEO Ron McElroy commissioned the tables, above, and bought other pieces to infuse the cubicles with a creative vibe. Real Office Center Santa MonicaReal Office Center Santa MonicaReal Office Center Santa MonicaKaleo, whose name means “the voice” in Hawaiian, grabs a Starbucks under his Start Ups Brewing custom light box, where the mermaid’s lei winks at both his Hawaiian heritage and to ROC’s new Honolulu location.Kaleo studioThen, it’s down to Door Number Bruce Lee:  Kaleo’s studio in the basement parking garage.Bruce Lee by KaleoWhy use a drop cloth? Then you’re just cleaning up the magic.Kaleo positive popInside, Kaleo takes off his sunglasses and gets to work. His latest series, “Positive Pop” gives iconic commercial slogans an inspirational angle. It’s his top seller.Kaleo studioKaleo didn’t take a direct path to this studio, where he works while standing, under the apoxy resin Mona Lisa gaze of three presidents. After playing college football, he jumped into music industry. He got signed, but didn’t quite make it… and ended up becoming a gold broker. Just when he was agonizing about losing his soul to a job that paid well but gave him no intrinsic satisfaction, he had an inspiration for his “Images in Irony” series. He stockpiled canvases for a year before approaching a gallery. Kaleo CheesinNow, with galleries in London, Dubai and LA, Kaleo’s following his bliss. He plans to dress that bliss with his new line of Artwork by Kaleo T-Shirts, launching soon. If you’re in the Bu, July 26 & 27th, hobnob with him at the Malibu Art Show. Living the dream, Kaleo, living the dream!

Blue Besos


About Tiffany

About Tiffany

I'm a model, journalist, short-time polo player and long-time fashion addict...

Insta Blue Besos


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.