Panoply Arts Festival: How It All Started

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The 2014 Panoply Arts Festival opened in Huntsville on Friday.  It’s one of the largest arts festivals in north Alabama.

The 32nd Panoply Arts Festival is taking place in downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park.

To understand how this event came to be, think back about three decades.
It was the first year of Panoply.

Think big hair and even bigger shoulder pads.

Growing up in Huntsville, I always knew about Panoply.  WHNT News 19 Reporter Megan Hayes says, “My mom was a Panoply chair back in the 80’s.  So, for a first hand look at just how much Panoply has grown over the decades, I’m going straight to the source.

“Back then, we didn’t even really have any arts festivals in the neighborhood or in north Alabama area,” Leslie Vallely says.

The Junior League of Huntsville started planning Panoply in 1979.

“They researched and went to all kinds of arts festivals all over the southeast.  They went to Spoleto (in Charleston). They went to New Orleans,” Vallely says.  “They did quite a bit of research and background before they even started into this.”

Now, fast forward to 1980.

Long story short, after years of research and surveys, The Junior League asked the Arts Council to co-sponsor the event.

And, that’s how Panoply was born.

“The city of Huntsville and the county came together and I think they were just as excited as we were,” Vallely says.

It was the start of something new. Something they were certain would be magical.

“It was a great time for people to be able to come out with their kids, and do art and music and for people who have never been exposed to any of that,” Vallely says. “It was an opportunity that this community had not seen before.”

32 years later Panoply is still going strong.


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