The Panida Theater is a treasured landmark in downtown Sandpoint. It opened in 1927 and was named for its location – the Panhandle of Idaho.
In the early years it served as a vaudeville and movie house, but while the types of performances may have changed over the years, one thing has remained – talented performers still take the stage.
But operating the community-owned theater isn’t easy. It takes money and commitment. After years of neglect, Sandpoint residents came together in the 1980s to save the theater, which boasts beautiful architecture.
The community efforts paid off, and the Panida is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Year after year, a community effort of donations, grants and volunteers keep the Panida alive and well.
Late last year, Sandpoint’s Community Assistance League awarded the Panida a grant of $600 that was used to purchase chandeliers for the Little Theater. The Fenton Family Fund of the Idaho Community Foundation also contributed $20,000 to the theater. According to Karen Bowers, executive director of the Panida, that money was designated to improve the Little Theater space and for general operating expenses.
According to those involved with the Panida, grants chairwoman Phyllis Goodwin played an instrumental role in the Panida’s receipt of several grants over the last year.
Others who contributed greatly over the last year include:
The Idaho Commission on the Arts, which awarded an entry track grant of $4,942 for general operating expenses as well as an ARRA/Act Stimulus grant for employees in the amount of $8,807.
Mountain West Bank, which presented a donation of $5,000 from its Community Giving Fund.
The Equinox Foundation, formerly Fenton Family Foundation, which contributed $500 for general operating expenses and to support the ongoing restoration work of the Panida.
The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, which awarded $10,000.
The Idaho Heritage Trust, which announced a grant of $5,000 for a historical-finishes study to restore the interior walls of the Panida, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which announced a grant of $4,000.
The Florence Wasmer Fund for Arts & Culture with the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, which awarded the theater a grant of $1,600 to purchase new stage sound equipment.
Bowers said the theater has three other employees: a technical director, an executive assistant and a maintenance person. The theater has an annual budget of approximately $160,000, but there are always ongoing projects.
Bowers said one upcoming goals is to complete the refurbishing of the chairs.
“That is at least a $40,000 project,” she said.
The ceiling may also be in need of repair. However, until professionals can look at it and assess what needs to be done Bowers is unsure of the extent of that project.
“We’ve got a lot of things down the line,” said Bowers, including joining the Little Theater with the main theater.
Bowers said all future projects are directed at restoring the theater to its original splendor, and the community has been instrumental in making that happen.
“The Panida extends its gratitude to all the foundations and organizations who have given so generously in the last year to help maintain and preserve the community’s beloved historic theater,” said Erik Daarstad, a member of the Panida’s board of trustees.