History of the Polk County Youth Fair
On October 7, 1944, G. W. (Buck) Mann, Jr., stood talking with a representative of Hon. Nathan
Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture, and on that day the hoping and thinking that had been going on
about an agricultural show pavilion in this area of Florida turned into activity which has culminated in the
facilities, not yet completed, but which are being used for the first time to stage the Polk County Youth
Following the October 7th meeting, the Livestock Committee of the Bartow Chamber of
Commerce headed by W. H. Stuart, Chairman, met with Mr. Mayo in Winter Haven on November 18,
1944. Mr. Mayo made a proposal in which he asked the committee to help make the project a state,
county and city effort in keeping with his state-wide plan for similar areas surrounding such other points
as Quincy, Ocala, Orlando and Belle Glade.
The City of Bartow responded, immediately by donating the Pavilion site and a cash contribution
to the building fund. The County of Polk heartily endorsed the project and backed it with the financial
assistance requested. Individual citizens - cattlemen, merchants, fruit growers and others have likewise
On December 5, 1944, Joe Taylor, hardworking Secretary of the Bartow Chamber of Commerce
helped arrange a meeting between the livestock committee and Mr. W. L. Wilson, Director of State
Markets, and Col. M. B. Hawkins, Construction Engineer. The title to the Pavilion site is held by the
Florida Agricultural Marketing Board of which Mr. Wilson is secretary. On this occasion the building
site was approved and Mr. Wilson made the first public announcement regarding this project. He has
cooperated fully, and Col. Hawkins has worked many hours on the building plans. As the building has
progressed toward completion, E. S. Rydholm, Supervisor of Construction for State Markets has given
During the time of the introductory conferences, sketches and blue prints of show pavilions and
exhibit buildings from all over the country were being accumulated for study and guidance.
On January 11, 1945, the committee met with Mr. L. H. Lewis, Livestock & Field Crops
Specialist, Florida State Marketing Bureau. As he was Mr. Mayo’s representative with whom we had our
first talk, he has from the beginning worked with us in every way to help make these facilities adequately
serve the needs of this area of the State. Mr. Lewis suggested that before drawing any plans he would
like for the committee to see the new pavilion then being completed in Valdosta, Georgia. Consequently,
on February 21, 1945, twenty-nine enthusiastic citizens went to Valdosta. Practically every man on the
trip made a written report and suggestions which were studied by the building committee.
A building and planning committee composed of Buck Mann, Chairman, Sam Clark, C. E. (Tiny)
Williams, Paul Hayman, L. G. Carlton and W. H. Stuart, ex-officio member, went to work on plans. A.
Alex Hatton, a former Bartow boy now located in Orlando, was engaged as architect.
Many sketches were drawn and much time has elapsed since plans were started, but scarcity of
materials, priorities, gray market prices, lack of funds and many other obstacles have not been able to
diminish enthusiasm or stop the project.
In November 1947, W. H. Stuart took Clay Gardenhire to Tallahassee where the basic contract for
the barn and arena were awarded to Gardenhire Brothers. The members of this Bartow firm have
manifested the same interest in the project as the building committee and by doing many seemingly
impossible things have brought the building to its present stage of completion.
We are not celebrating the completion of the project, but possibly only its beginning, and as Mr.
Mayo turns the key to the pavilion over to the people of this area of Florida, may its inaugural use by our
young citizens be symbolic of the use and growth of these facilities through the coming years.
We can be thankful for a State, a County, a City and a Citizenship that march forward together.