101st annual Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show blossoms
by Marie Nesmith
Oct 29, 2013 | 1848 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Stilesboro Improvement Club Ruth Harris, from left, Glenda Gentry, Susiann Brock, Sue Shepherd, and Mary Morris peek in the Stilesboro Academy to see the new paint job. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Members of the Stilesboro Improvement Club Ruth Harris, from left, Glenda Gentry, Susiann Brock, Sue Shepherd, and Mary Morris peek in the Stilesboro Academy to see the new paint job. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
For Susiann Brock and her fellow Stilesboro Improvement Club members, the days leading up to the 101st annual Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show are full of excitement. Along with Stilesboro Academy’s interior and exterior receiving a fresh coat of paint, members are decorating the inside of the venue with fresh greenery and tending to their home-grown chrysanthemums.

“[This is an] exciting and hectic [time],” said Brock, who will be entering a variety of blooms in this year’s competition. “Because of the weather, we have to take care of our plants. We had a hard freeze, and if we hadn’t covered them, and we had a light in our bed, in areas it would have killed them. [So] we’re having to nurse our plants and keep them from getting damaged.

“We are [trying to finish] the painting. We’ve had some delays with it, so it has taken a touch longer than we had planned for it to, but I think they’ll be through by Saturday. ... [Now] we’re talking about our [show’s Georgia on My Mind] theme and we’re anxious to get in the building and get things moving ... We have a good bit of the basic, foundational-type work [complete], but we have done very little of our theme [decorations] and that will come this week. And then we have to be done by Thursday because the flowers are judged on Friday.”

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show is expected to draw hundreds of people to the pre-Civil War Stilesboro Academy on Taff Road, eight miles west of Cartersville. During the event, the public will be able to view the annual contest in which club members enter chrysanthemums in various competition categories.

Regarded as the oldest chrysanthemum show in Georgia, the event also is the largest fundraiser for the Stilesboro Improvement Club, which is charged with maintaining the academy.

“The club was established in 1910 and the show in 1912,” said Ann Mascia, a Stilesboro Improvement Club member. “The plants were in the garden of a sharecropper’s wife, plants that she had ordered from the Agriculture Department in Washington, D.C. One of my great-aunts here in the community was so impressed with these huge blossoms that ... she got plants and grew some herself in 1911. Then [she] had the club to a tea at her house to show off the plants and to persuade the club that this would be a good fundraising project to have a flower show, charge admission and use the money toward the upkeep of the academy.

“It’s our main fundraiser, always from day one. Now mind you the first years, the admission was 25 cents, which I just think is just so hilarious to think of. ... Just recently we were extremely fortunate to get a grant from the Rollins Corporation. That enabled us to paint the building inside and out. But, if it were not for that, it would take us maybe 15 years of having flower shows to do that because we raise money at each flower show and sock it away, but it takes an awful lot of money to do anything to a building that big.”

From 1859 through the late 1930s, Stilesboro Academy served as a school for children in the first through 12th grades. When the Bartow County School System wanted to close Stilesboro Academy, the club paid what the lumber was worth and, in turn, received the deed for the school in 1939. According to local legend, Union Gen. William T. Sherman spared the academy on his march to Atlanta due to the motto of West Point — his alma mater — being inscribed inside the structure.

For Mascia, everyone in Bartow needs to visit Stilesboro Academy — a Greek-revival building with 20-foot ceilings — at least once. With the structure freshly painted and its interior adorned with flowers, she feels the upcoming event will be the ideal opportunity.

“At one time there were a string of these academies all over the southland before we had an organized school system in most communities,” Mascia said. “These academies were no longer used when most local governments started providing education and the style of architecture went so out of style. It was virtually impossible to heat something with a 20-foot ceiling. So they moved into more practical quarters to have a school.

“... [Most academies] either fell apart due to people not realizing their importance or a lot of them were burned by Sherman. ... [Stilesboro Academy] is a treasure for Bartow County and something every citizen should get a chance to see at some time. It’s such a remarkable piece of architecture that it should not be missed.”

Admission to the event will be $2 for adults and $1 for children. For a minimal cost, the public also will be able to partake in an a la carte lunch in the Tea Room, featuring homemade Brunswick stew, chicken salad and desserts.

For more information about the flower show, call Mascia at 770-382-7773.