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updated: 9/12/2015 10:24 PM

Equine heritage celebrated at Barrington Hills polo event

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  • Debra Hasanoglu, on Team Maserati Lake Forest, battles captain Joan-Carlos Brugee of Oakwood Farm on Saturday at the LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills.

      Debra Hasanoglu, on Team Maserati Lake Forest, battles captain Joan-Carlos Brugee of Oakwood Farm on Saturday at the LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Gretchen Von Hess, an artist from Barrington Hills, shows off her hat Saturday at the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills.

      Gretchen Von Hess, an artist from Barrington Hills, shows off her hat Saturday at the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Nearly 2,000 spectators were expected for the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.

      Nearly 2,000 spectators were expected for the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The Parade of Hounds opened the festivities at the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.

      The Parade of Hounds opened the festivities at the 11th annual LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Heidi Anderson, who lives in Barrington Hills, models a chicken and egg hat.

      Heidi Anderson, who lives in Barrington Hills, models a chicken and egg hat.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The divot stomp was a big hit between matches as Lucy Bach, 6, of Barrington joined in on the fun.

      The divot stomp was a big hit between matches as Lucy Bach, 6, of Barrington joined in on the fun.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Jillian Roenneburg, 9, of Adams, Wisconsin, chases down the dogs during the Parade of Hounds at the LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.

      Jillian Roenneburg, 9, of Adams, Wisconsin, chases down the dogs during the Parade of Hounds at the LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup in Barrington Hills on Saturday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Kate who?

In a matchup of headpieces -- not hats, luv -- Gretchen Von Hess easily reigns over the Duchess of Cambridge.

"It's my cloud hat," Von Hess says casually. "My fall cloud hat."

Von Hess turned heads almost as much as the horses at the LeCompte/Kalaway Trailowners Cup Saturday in Barrington Hills, the largest polo event in the Chicago area and a prime opportunity for posh fashion.

"Every year, I just get inspired by the spirit, all the activity here and especially the place where we live," said the Barrington Hills artist.

Clouds inspired a white, abstract bow on Von Hess' hat -- "I think of them more as sculptures than hats" -- topped with a tuft of white flowers.

And naturally, Von Hess needed three escorts: Bachione (Italian for "little kisses), Bella Pepper (Bellini for certain occasions) and La-li -- all black poodles and all wearing rhinestone collars.

"It's just the most fabulous event," said former chairwoman Karen Selman, admiring the pomp and the entries in the ladies hat contest.

The festivities began with a parade of the hounds by the Fox River Valley Hunt club, followed by polo matches -- one a "battle of the sexes" -- on a sprawling field at Oakwood Farms.

Almost 2,000 spectators were expected during the volunteer-run event, with a special lunch for homeowners who open their properties to let the nearly 350 members and their horses in the Riding Club of Barrington Hills use pristine trails.

"We are an equestrian community, and there's not another one like that," said Cathy Keady, who sits on the club's board. "And we're trying to preserve that tradition. We all feel strongly about our equestrian heritage."

"This is really one of the last bastions of equestrian pursuits," said organizer and polo player Jeff Hensel.

"You look so terribly smart," said Jane Clement, complimenting Hensel.

The Peter Wessel Memorial Tailgate was named after Clement's late husband, a former village trustee. In another contest, an award went to the best "tailgate," really tents with elegant furniture and flowers.

"This is a big block party with a little polo played in the middle of the field," Clement said.

Proceeds from ticket sales support the club's maintenance of miles of trails and the Barrington Hills Polo Club.

"Really the spirit is to celebrate the community," Hensel said.

"It's very much a hometown feel, and it's about keeping the love of horses."

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