We looked forward to this festival for months. Nine months, to be exact. In early January, we bought our tickets for the Sisters Folk Music Festival and reserved and paid for a prime RV site at the Creekside Campground, located in the heart of Sisters. We were committed.
Spontaneity is more our style, particularly since we’ve started our full timing life. We’ve grown quite fond of a lifestyle that allows us to change our plans according to the weather, interesting diversions that we find along the way, or to adjust for the unexpected. But some things are worth planning for, and this was one of them.
For the past twenty years, on the weekend following Labor Day, the little town of Sisters in eastern Oregon gives itself over to the Folk Festival. It’s a three-day celebration of roots music, from blues to bluegrass and everything in-between. We planned this adventure with our dear hometown friends Leslie and Steve, and after getting settled into our adjoining campsites, we walked into town and picked up our schedules for the event. This was the most challenging part of our weekend—with 10 different venues, 45 artists/groups, and more than 80 events, the logistics of plotting our strategy were mind-boggling.
From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, we made our way from one music event to another, delighted with the choices we made, and inspired by the music and the positive energy of the musicians, the crowd, and the festival volunteers.
We had a blast. The combination of fantastic music choices, excellent venues, superb organization, the cool vibe of the town, the beauty of the surroundings—well, it really was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that we’re seriously considering going again next year. And next time, we’re going to spend a few extra days in Sisters because it’s such an extraordinary little town.
Here, a few tips should you decide to go:
• Book early, especially if you want to reserve a campsite in town. (One caveat about the Creekside Campground: it’s the best location, but you pay in full when you make your reservation, and there are no refunds, nada.) Then again, if you don’t care about staying in a campground, you can park virtually anywhere on the streets of Sisters. The residents actually welcome you to park right in front of their homes. All manner of RV’s lined the streets of the town throughout the festival.
• Get there one day early to get oriented, especially if this is your first visit. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and on Friday morning, walked into town to pick up our programs and wristbands—and most importantly, to take a look at all of the venues. The locations range from small stages at wine bars, restaurants, a coffee shop, and bakery (most have outdoor gardens) to large tents that can hold 1,000 people. We prefer small venues when possible for a more intimate experience, and booked reservations for dinner at one of the venues we liked best to ensure good seats for a coveted performance.
• Take the time to check out the performers on YouTube before the festival begins. The Sisters Music Festival has an excellent website with links to all of the performers—it was a great way for us to decide who we wanted to see.
• Don’t bother driving anywhere. Sisters is very walkable and bikeable—the venues are mostly grouped within a few blocks in downtown Sisters (the one exception that’s a half-mile away has a shuttle bus, but we biked to it). Once again, the town makes it easy for attendees—the local bike shop offers free valet parking throughout the festival venues.
• Bring food with you or grab a bite at one of the vendors in between shows (high quality, yummy food truck cuisine). You won’t have time to go back to your rig in between shows (except for the 4 to 6 p.m. dinner break, which is far too early in my opinion).
• Go early to shows that you really, really want to see. And be flexible—you might not get in to every show, but because every musician performs several times throughout the festival at various venues, you’ll have the chance to see them, probably more than once.
Following our music festival extravaganza, we drove 54 miles to LaPine State Park, about 20 miles south of Bend. (It’s a lovely park on the Deschutes River, with electric/water hookups and decent Verizon coverage.) We spent several days biking and hiking the trails in the park along the river, made a couple of trips into Bend to explore (and had lunch twice at Spork, best carnitas ever!), visited the excellent High Desert Museum, and met up with former Ashland neighbors and friends at Crux brewery for dinner and catching up on the past several years. Bend deserves a lot more time and exploration, but we were ready to head home to Ashland for several weeks. There’s always next time!