During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Wellington transitioned from the winter equestrian capital of the world into the field hockey capital of America.
More than 2,500 field hockey athletes on more than 150 teams were involved in the action as the International Polo Club hosted the National Field Hockey Festival. There were also clinics for those in the Western Communities area who are interested in the sport.
Organized by the USA Field Hockey organization, this special event is an important one on the national governing body's annual calendar.
"This is primarily a college recruitment tournament, but it also celebrates all facets of field hockey through adult play, coach and athlete networking events and introductory field hockey clinics for the community," said Teryn Brill, USA Field Hockey's social media and digital marketing manager.
The event required lots of green grass at the International Polo Club as 26 playing fields in all were used during the three-day tourney.
The vast majority of the competitors were female. Only a handful of males participated, and they were on the Under-12 Division coed squads. Age groups also included under-14, under-16 and under-19, and there was a women's open division.
"It's always a great pleasure to bring field hockey of this magnitude to the state of Florida," said Nick Salen, USA Field Hockey's public relations and communications coordinator. "We could not have asked for better conditions this Thanksgiving weekend. Perfect weather, palm trees and fun in the sun. A big thanks to Palm Beach County, the city of Wellington and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission for helping make this a reality.”
George Linley, executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, referred to the festival as a "tremendous success" and said it created a significant economic and tourism impact. The event filled approximately 10,000 hotel rooms.
In addition to the actual games, there was also a goalkeeper showcase involving several different drills designed to improve their goalkeeping talents.
One of the participants, 15-year-old Louise Caelen, hails from Maastricht in The Netherlands. She played on a team nicknamed the Alley Cats.
Those in attendance enjoyed their field hockey experience in Wellington.
"I had fun and had a really nice time," Caelen said. "It was kind of hot though."
According to Brill, the schedules were created so that each team could organize its own Thanksgiving meals. And for those teams which needed assistance, sponsor Global JBS provided a holiday feast at the team hotels.
Along with the Alley Cats, there were other interesting team nicknames such as Ambush Alpha, Coastal Clash, G-Force Vikingz, Lasting Legacy Gales, Maine Majestix White, Mayhem Fierce, Polar Bears, Rapid Fire Elite, Sharkbait, Windy City Inferno and X-Calibur.
The festival will return to Wellington next year — again over the Thanksgiving weekend.