By Cleve Carter

The Imperial Polk Astronomical Society had its beginning in 2011 from the remnant of another astronomy group in the central Florida area. Astronomy groups experience the same situations as any other “interest” group; people come in out of interest or curiosity, stay for a while, then leave for a variety of reasons, whether to move on to other locations, vocations or interests.

In January of 2011, I was informed of an astronomy event at Circle B Bar Reserve, a County park in Lakeland, FL and just “had to go” and see what it was about. I went and met Ken Webb who was from the former group and was heading up the event. There was a goodly number of people in attendance. After the observing session, I asked if I could bring my telescope the next month and was told it would be welcomed. For a few months I brought my scope and joined in on the observing fun.

Then one month, Ken called me and said he would not be able to make it due to work. But I would be there, along with one or two others with scopes, so the show went on. As the year progressed, Ken was able to make it less and I picked up the ball. Soon we added presentations to our program along with the observing. The presentations are basic astronomy at a level anyone can comprehend and enjoy. We encourage questions and participation. Our observing sessions include daytime solar as well as nighttime celestial observing.

We now do presentations and observing at State, County and City Parks. We do solar observing and a presentation on light pollution at Bok Tower, National Historic Garden and Park, for Earth Day for school children. We have observing sessions at the Sun-N-Fun “Fly-in” air show in Lakeland, FL as well as the “Aero Space Discovery Day” for youth groups sponsored by the Florida Air Museum. We have worked with public and private schools with presentations and observing. We have worked with a local college doing observing sessions and helping to get their planetarium up and running for public presentations. We have worked with Church groups, local Civil Air Patrol groups and the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to earn their “Astronomy Awards”. One of our favorite groups is the Seminole Nation in Florida, doing observing at their state-wide Pow Pow.

We do private presentations and/or observing sessions for schools, private communities and individuals for birthdays or any other occasion. Please contact us for more information.

In January of 2016, we incorporated in the state of Florida and now are a 501(c)(3) educational organization. Please see our vision and mission statements and Bylaws to see what we are all about.

So why the name “Imperial”? That goes back to the early years of our home, Polk County, Florida. At one time, Polk County boasted more paved roads than anywhere else in the southeast U.S., hence the “Imperial” moniker. It was probably more of a P.R. thing than anything else, but the name has stuck. We are still officially known as “Imperial Polk County,” and are proud of our heritage. If you look alongside several of the old roads crossing the county line, you can still see some of the old county line markers that were installed in the 1930’s.

For more information, visit http://www.polkcountyhistory.org/

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