If I took all the praise and every word of positivity, it wouldn't be enough to describe the experience of Panoply in Huntsville, AL. I'll try to tell the story and do this festival justice.
It seems that our festivals fall into a pattern: short drive= one day show. Medium drive=two day show. A day of driving=three day show. So, it was really strange to be packing for a three day show and only have a two hour drive.
We left Friday morning around 8am, to make sure we could arrive for our 11am set up time with time to spare. Panoply assigns set up time, so people aren't all trying to drive up and unload at the same time. We had an easy Tennessee/Alabama highway drive (that looked just like driving to Kentucky) and before we knew it, we were there! We had time to find our hotel and the festival check in area and we ended up sitting for a few minutes in the post office parking lot until it was our time slot.
Check in was quick and friendly. We were given directions to our spot, drove straight to it and right away met one of our friendly neighbors who gave us some great pointers. Set up went flawlessly and our view was a park with a beautiful lake, and the Huntsville Museum of Art was on the other side. The sound system played different types of music and the weather was PERFECT. When I opened our check-in packet, I discovered a sheet detailing what the Artist Hospitality tent would be providing. This festival treats artists unbelievably well. This was also the second time this year that I've been given a lanyard with a badge on it so I feel official :)
We learned of Panoply from someone we met when we did Bell Buckle. He has since become a collector and even more than that, a friend. He called David Friday afternoon and offered to take us for lunch. We had a wonderful time visiting with him at a really cool restaurant. We even had time to see his amazing office space. You know who you are and again, thank you :)
Friday night passed easily with enthusiastic visitors but slow sales. I tend to gauge a show not just by money exchanging hands but by the response. Positive and inquisitive responses are encouraging and often bring sales and commissions later. It isn't all about sales, obviously, but this is a business and sales are important. A show with little positive response and no sales is a clear sign that this area is just not our market and we generally mark that off our list for the next year. Huntsville was welcoming and we looked forward to Saturday.
After a mostly restful night and a great breakfast, we arrived to a day of record heat. We were prepared with washcloths in ice water, sunscreen and a commitment to staying hydrated. I made MANY visits to the hospitality tent for water refills and snacks. Sales were a bit better, but the wind was TERRIBLE. We faced strong gusts and even worse, the realization that our tent and shelves were slowly but definitely being shifted down the street. We had space on both sides of our booth where we were catching strong winds. David felt sure that we needed to tear everything down, and set back up right beside our neighbor. This would close the gap that the organizers had left there, thus eliminating one side where the wind was catching our tent. We frantically started pulling work down, much to the confusion of the festival guests and artists around us. We told everyone that stopped by what we were doing. One artist later told us she thought we had a family emergency and were leaving. We were halfway through tearing down when some volunteers stopped by. They made sure we were ok and then said, "Well, we have some good news for you". They then awarded David "Best of Show". It was an amazing moment and gave us both renewed energy.
The heat broke, the wind died down, our booth was stable and now we had a beautiful award hanging from our tent. This award brought new attention, including gallery owners and the news station. David gave an interview and we enjoyed the rest of our evening with our friend hanging out with us. I even did something I've never done- went and bought us expensive celebratory beers.
The news crew showed back up after closing to do their live intro so we stood on the completely dark street with our booth fully lit up so they could get the footage they needed. Then we ended our exhausting but awesome day.
When we arrived Sunday, our tent was almost collapsed. The weather report wasn't looking good and they gave us the option to tear down. We decided to pack up and by the time we got started tearing down, they announced that they were closing the artists' section anyway. When we were driving home, we got the text that the whole festival was closing at 2pm.
In my opinion, this was the best show for us in every way except dollar amount of sales on site. Every part was easy and pleasant. We were taken care of, the people were interested, the setting was gorgeous, the other artists were friendly. We had a great parking spot a short walk away and our hotel was less than a mile down the road. We loved Panoply and appreciate the organizers and volunteers more than I can ever express. They truly value those they invite to participate. We felt that we were part of something special. This illustrates the spirit of Panoply- the artist beside us lost his tent to wind. The woman across from us wasn't feeling well and in the middle of it all, decided she wants to retire from doing shows. So she and her husband GAVE the man beside us their entire tent set up. He said, "Things like this don't happen to me". It was heartwarming and we were all very touched.
Thanks for reading and here are all the photos I managed to take. Sunday was supposed to be my photo day.
This is beyond amazing and really rare, in our experience. And when we left Sunday, they insisted I take a cup and fill it with pastries for the drive.
The view from our table at The Toy Box. Nerd restaurant with amazing food ;)
Painted on the drink cooler
Sitting in the grass, trying out panorama
The colors were projected and flashed up the building
Even more beautiful at night. The park was recently renovated, just in time for this beloved community festival. This was the 35th year!
Scott Sheahan (news anchor for a local station) preparing for the intro. And doing something cheesy :) I enjoyed watching this process and knowing none of it involved me.
This is called "40 mph wind gusts are coming: A Still Life"
As always, thanks for reading!