The Puppeteers of America is, as defined in their handbook, "a national nonprofit corporation founded in 1937. Its purpose is to encourage and promote puppetry as a means of communication, an extension of human expression, and as a performing Art; to enhance the proficiency of the Art of Puppetry, both professional and amateur, by publications, workshops, conventions or festivals, lectures, advisory services and any and all of other means and methods." The organization publishes The Puppetry Journal.

Jim Henson served as President of the organization in 1962-1963. Frank Oz's father, Mike Oznowicz, also served as President. His term lasted from 1974 to 1976.

The Puppeteers of America also has a large audio/visual library, from which members may borrow. The library contains several videos and DVDs featuring Jim Henson and the Muppets, including such rare finds as An Evening with Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

Jim and Jane Henson attended their first Puppeteers of America festival in Detroit, Michigan in 1960 where he became friends with Burr Tillstrom of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame. Burr Tillstrom introduced Jim Henson to puppet builder Don Sahlin who designed and built Rowlf the Dog. At the Puppeteers of America Festival in 1961 Jim Henson met Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz. Jane Henson has often said that Jim found the core group of the Muppets (Don Sahlin, Jerry Juhl, and Frank Oz) at Puppeteers of America festivals. At the end of his term as President of Puppeteers of America, Jim was also the director of the 1963 national festival in Hurleyville, New York. Caroll Spinney performed at a "PofA" festival in Utah in 1969, and Jim Henson immediately asked him to join the Muppets. In 1980, the Puppeteers of America and UNIMA-USA produced the World Puppetry Festival in Washington DC. The opening gala at the Kennedy Center featured segments by Burr Tillstrom, Bil Baird, Shari Lewis, and the Muppets all on the same stage. In the summer of 1989 at the Puppeteers of America festival at MIT, Jim Henson and Frank Oz spoke to the festival audience. "An Evening with Jim Henson and Frank Oz" is one of the most popular titles in the Puppeteers of America audio-visual library. Since Jim Henson's passing, the Henson family has sustained its interest in Puppeteers of America. Jane Henson served on the board from 1999 to 2000.

At the Puppeteers of America National Festival in Atlanta, 2009 Sesame Street puppeteers John Tartaglia and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph both presented programs.

On July 15th, 2011, Steve Whitmire and Kermit the Frog attended the 75th annual National Puppetry Festival, which was also held in Atlanta (Whitmire's hometown). Highlights of the evening included a particular focus on the evolution of Kermit (aided with a clip montage), and Q&A with Steve and Kermit.[1]

The Doc Bullfrog and Yancey Woodchuck puppets from the Emmet Otter musical made an appearance at the opening ceremony for the 2013 festival held at Swarthmore College, with Tyler Bunch and David Stephens reprising their roles from the original production.

Several Emmet Otter puppets, as well as an original Cookie Monster, were on display at the 2015 festival held at the University of Connecticut. A screening of I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story was held on August 11, 2015, with an audience talkback afterwards with Caroll Spinney, his wife Debra Jean, and Oscar the Grouch. Sonia Manzano co-hosted the final event of the festival, "Late Night with Eugene O'Neill," and received a standing ovation upon her entrance.


The Puppeteers of America bestows special honors. The first award was The President's Award, established in 1968, for outstanding contributions to the Art of Puppetry. Several Muppet performers/designers have been recipients.

Since 1997, the organization has also bestowed The Jim Henson Award for Innovation, recognizing innovation in puppetry that is technological, dramaturgical or collaborative in nature.


  1. The Muppet Mindset: An Evening with Steve Whitmire and Kermit the Frog

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