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The Crowd: A day of high-spirited water polo

The social and sports crowd came together last weekend in Newport Beach for an Olympic water polo exhibition featuring the American team and squads from both Croatia and Hungary.

The three-day event, which ended Monday evening, attracted overflow crowds at the Newport Harbor High School swimming pool. Attendance reached numbers of more than 1,500 guests for the Saturday evening match between the USA and Croatia.

Team USA coaches, including head coach Terry Schroeder, assistant coach Robert Lynn, who also serves as the head coach for the Newport Harbor men’s water polo program, and assistant coach Marco Palazzo were front and center for the weekend competition and exhibition.

Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner served as welcoming master of ceremonies for the festivities. We caught up with Gardner to ask her why the sports of water polo and swimming are so important to Newport-Mesa youth.


“It is understandable why we are drawn to the water, as we live in an area surrounded by spectacular beaches,” said Gardner.

“Our water polo and swim programs attract great coaches sending players to the nationals and to the Olympics,” she continued.

Gardner went on to say, “In a sport like water polo, if you do not learn to work with your team you won’t be an effective player in the sport or in life. Teammates learn to find ways to get along. We don’t always like people we play with or work with, but in life, as in a sport, the valuable lesson is to be able to work with people of different personality types.”

Gardner shared that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District contributes funds to help maintain the swimming pools such as the Marian Bergeson Pool at Corona del Mar High School. The district also encourages and recommends programs designed to introduce students to both swimming and water polo.


Gardner mentioned that her 13-year-old grandson is among the Orange County students involved in water polo.

Following the exhibition game on Saturday, a party was thrown at the Environmental Nature Center adjacent to Newport Harbor High School. Stonefire Grill catered dinner and cocktails, enjoyed by the U.S. and Croatia teams, their families and guests.

As night fell over Newport Beach, the crowd converged upon a massive fire pit and capped the night with roasted s’mores, which ended a day of high-spirited competition.


Another treasured local institution that has been the dining destination of choice for Newport-Mesa aficionados of Mexican cuisine for 40 years recently expanded its reach from its Costa Mesa headquarters by opening in Rancho Santa Margarita.

The original Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Bar was opened on 17th Street in Costa Mesa in 1972 by the late Barrie Moore. He was a fixture in the restaurant for decades, greeting the locals, many of whom would come in for lunch or dinner following a neighboring sporting event, such as the water polo tournament that took place over the weekend at the high school.

Today, Mi Casa is run by Ryan Moore, a third generation of the Moore family, along with extended family members. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary this month, their goal remains steadfast, which is simply to serve high-quality, traditional Sonora-style recipes, generous portions, and more cheese that can be found in the entire state of Wisconsin. After all, their nickname is fondly “House of Cheese.”

Nathalie Bishop, a member of the family team, reports that the new location is a winner. It offers the same Mi Casa fare and coveted margaritas in a new contemporary atmosphere that features original paintings by Orange County artist and former football player Todd Marinovich.


THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.