Mayfaire by-the-Lake: An Art Showcase for All on May 11-12

By Alexa Estevez
Photos Courtesy of Polk Museum of Art

Mayfaire by-the-Lake is returning for the 52nd consecutive year, featuring artwork from local and nationally recognized artists and offering people the opportunity to immerse themselves in art with the beautiful backdrop of Lake Morton, as well enjoy activities at the Polk Museum of Art and Lakeland Public Library. 

This admission free event—which is put on by the Polk Museum of Art with the help of title sponsors Citizens Bank and Trust, and The Ruthvens, and in partnership with the City of Lakeland—is a Mother’s Day weekend tradition for people of all ages and abilities including food trucks, live music, and transportation from Mayfaire golf carts with wheelchair accessibility, and The Squeeze. 

This year’s Mayfaire will host more than 150 artists showcasing jewelry, paintings, sculptures and more. Also on display will be the “Icons of Americana” exhibition located at the Polk Museum of Art. 

“We’re really excited that so many audiences can come through to see the work of Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth” said Dr. H. Alexander Rich, Executive Director & Chief Curator of the museum.

This year’s Mayfaire Judge is Jessica Kay Ruhle, a former Lakelander, who currently lives in Billings, Mont., where she serves as Executive Director of the Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM).

Ruhle was born and raised in Lakeland. Growing up, her grandmother, Gerrye West, was a docent at the museum, so she grew up visiting the Polk Museum of Art and enjoying activities like summer camps.

“I felt really at home at the Polk. It was a space that I always loved,” said Ruhle, “but when I left for college, I never thought about museums as a professional space or as somewhere where I would end up working.” 

When Ruhle graduated with an art history degree she was unsure about what her future held. But with a college professor’s recommendation to consider an internship at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA). “I happened to get assigned work in their education department, and I just found that was my absolute love.” 

It was during her internship at the NCMA that she began to understand how fortunate she was to have grown up with the Polk Museum of Art as such a regular part of her life.

Not only did the Polk Museum of Art impact Ruhle’s future career, but she also has fond memories from Mayfaire. 

“I grew up going to Mayfaire,” said Ruhle, “It was always part of our Mother’s Day weekend. I definitely loved chasing the swans. Always, always a favorite.” 

But what Ruhle said she remembers most fondly was the education tent. “They always had a component for young folks to also make their own work and feel like they were part of the process.”

The education tent is still at Mayfaire, known as the “kids zone” and located on Chiles Street, directly next to the library lawn, open both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Within the kids zone is also a tent called Kids Collect, a program the museum started three years ago, where kids ages 6-14 can shop donated artwork from Mayfaire artists. All proceeds are donated back to the museum’s summer camp program, providing scholarships for children to attend

“They always had a component for young folks to also make their own work and feel like they were part of the process.”

– 2024 Mayfaire Judge Jessica Kay Ruhle


Each year, Mayfaire selects a different artist to create a signature image for the festival’s poster and t-shirt. This year’s signature artwork was created by Heather Naggy, a professional artist who lives in Orlando, and who first participated in Mayfaire last year. “It was such an encouragement to receive the call, that after seeing my work last year they wanted me to create something special for this year’s poster,” Naggy said. “I’m honored that my work will be the face of the festival this year.” 

Naggy said she spent a day exploring Lakeland in order to “create something specific for the poster.” After exploring our town, Naggy proposed several ideas for the image, and was excited the Mayfaire hosts chose the one they did—one that features wood storks.

“While the swans are iconic to the city, I enjoyed seeing the wood storks. They were on their way to extinction not too long ago, but are making a comeback and thriving,” she said. “They represent a resiliency and an example of the beauty of diverse species sharing spaces.”

The event kicks off, May 10, at 7 p.m. with the MidFlorida Mayfaire 5k Race starting at Lake Mirror Auditorium. Participants can sign up at,, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the museum.

For more details on parking, ADA-assistance, and the festival visit