The History of Panoply Arts Festival
1978 the Junior League of Huntsville was completing work in five concentration areas focused on children in need. Katie Shaver (JLH President) and Andrea Luther Vandervoort (JLH Vice-President) surveyed the League in the fall of ’78 to develop guidelines for creating new projects of interest to members. The arts received a large percentage of votes, and Andrea advocated the research and development of an arts-related project.
In March 1979, the Junior League of Huntsville’s Special Research Committee for the Arts was established, and Committee Chair Amanda Segrest met with The Arts Council (now Arts Huntsville). TAC had just completed a community survey and a survey of its member organizations, and the League stood ready to assist. TAC’s member organizations indicated three areas of need: facilities, financial support and publicity/public exposure. The League felt they could be most effective in the publicity area and TAC accepted their assistance. After completing another survey of member organizations with positive feedback on Junior League of Huntsville involvement, the JLH Special Research Committee decided on a multi-phase program culminating in a large 4-day festival with an emphasis on children and arts education – Panoply.
From Carla King, Co-Chair of the first Panoply, along with Virginia Griffith –
“I’ll never forget some of the funny experiences and wonderful people we met during those years. We worked for months, organizing and feeling our way. We finally realized we needed a name for our ‘baby.’ Virginia and I sat on her stairs with dictionary in hand and went through the alphabet. All of a sudden – it was there! We said it at the same time and read the definition, ‘A magnificent array or a splendid display’. This was our Panoply.”
The festival project was presented to TAC’s Board of Directors in May 1980. The League asked TAC to co-sponsor the festival and support the multi-phase project. TAC agreed to participate, and the League spent 1981 training their members, gathering resources and making the connections needed to produce a large outdoor event.
In May of 1982 Panoply was born. It was extremely successful, and the Junior League of Huntsville had accomplished their goal. After the first Panoply, The Arts Council took the reins and have had the support of the League for 40 years as the festival has grown to one of the largest arts festivals in Alabama.