LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The bubbly was popping, drinks were flowing and the ponies were galloping all in the name of cancer research at Saturday's Polo Under the Palms.
The annual event held at the Sarasota Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch that included a polo competition, silent auction and post-game soiree was held to benefit cancer research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"We are all here for the charity," Nick Drizos. "Today is all about the cure of cancer."
Drizos, of Lakewood Ranch, is a season ticker holder and is at the polo club nearly every Sunday during the season, from December to April.
"We love the sport and it's just a great cause for MD."
Drizos was one of many who arrived early to tailgate before the competition. Tito's vodka was his drink of choice, appropriate since it's made in Texas and Tito's was one of the event's sponsor.
"I come out here for the polo regularly, but this is a great event," Tom Schroeter said. Schroeter, who been coming out to the Sarasota Polo Club for about five years, comes to several competitions throughout the season,
"It's wonderful for the families," Schroeter said. "They come our here and tailgate."
Schroeter said attendance had seemed low recently due to the unusually cool weather.
"Now that we have the warmer weather, you're going to see a lot more families coming out every Sunday."
Polo matches occur throughout the week at the various fields throughout the polo club. Each Sunday the polo club has a championship match for the week.
Christie Uihlein, co-chair of the event, arrived early, mixing and mingling with other tailgaters.
The Uihlein family began the annual event three years after her father-in-law Jamie Uihlein's own successful battle with cancer.
Last year's event raised about $150,000.
"Of course we'd like to hit that again this year," Christie Uihlein said.
Money is raised through a combination of ticket sales and sponsorships, according to Christie Uihlein.
Her husband, James P. Uihlein, in addition to also co-chairing the event, was playing on one of the teams in the polo game.
The theme Polo under the Palms was inspired by a similar MD Anderson event in Texas, Polo on the Prairie.
Jamie Uihlein was diagnosed with stage II tongue cancer in 2004. He sought a second opinion at MD Anderson, where he ultimately received treatment.
Today he is cancer-free.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.