((L-R Top Row) Ruthie Foster, Mary Gauthier, Max Gomez, LowDown Brass Band. (L-R Bottom Row) Rainbow Girls, Eileen Ivers, Changüí Majadero | Photos courtesy of Sisters Folk Festival)
After a year of COVID hibernation, The 24th Annual Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) is back in 2021, taking place October 1-3 in Sisters, where “All The Town’s a Stage.” This year’s festival has been scheduled for three weeks later than its traditional weekend in an effort to get beyond the ever-present late summer smoke season in Central Oregon. The 30 incredible artists on the lineup for this year’s event represent an ever-widening sample of Americana and folk music.
“As a festival, we’re dedicated to bringing a wide variety of different ‘branches’ of the Americana music tree, from folk, to gospel and soul, Celtic and Acadian, old-time, bluegrass, Southern rock, singer-songwriters, jazz and more. The festival is a wonderful cultural and musical experience that is guaranteed to present new artists and new music to our audience every year,” says Brad Tisdel, creative director.
This year’s schedule features performances by 30 artists over three days. The final lineup for 2021 includes: Ruthie Foster, Eileen Ivers, Darrell Scott, Mary Gauthier, CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Willy Porter, Ron Artis II & the Messengers, Judith Hill, LowDown Brass Band, AJ Lee & Blue Summit, Thunderstorm Artis, Haley Heynderickx, Changüí Majadero, Rainbow Girls, Garrett LeBeau, Emily Scott Robinson, Max Gomez, Yasmin Williams, Robby Hecht, Hogslop String Band, Charlie Parr, Ordinary Elephant, Beth Wood, Alisa Amidor, Wild Ponies, Dennis McGregor & The Spoilers, Big Sky City Lights, The Haymakers, Jenner Fox and Pretty Gritty. Every artist will play multiple sets over the weekend, providing an opportunity to catch lots of acts and see performers more than once. For those who really want to see a particular artist, organizers suggest arriving early to the venue, as venues do get to capacity at peak times.
The schedule and number of venues allow for patrons to walk throughout town and sample music in different settings, different styles and in wonderful restaurants and businesses, all with a unique vibe and energy. This year’s private venues are at the Sisters Saloon, the Open Door, Angeline’s Bakery and Sisters Depot. The three largest venues will be under tents located at Oliver Lemon’s, Village Green Park and the Sisters Art Works building. All seven venues are outdoors.
The festival doesn’t just attract local, regional and national audiences; it’s also highly sought-after by touring professionals. Festival staff and volunteers make sure that artists are treated with respect, understanding and great hospitality during their stay in Sisters. The Sisters Folk Festival has become an important stop for touring musicians who want to establish an audience base in the Pacific Northwest.
Even with a scaled-down model for 2021 of seven venues (instead of the typical 11) throughout the downtown, the endeavor requires more than 300 community volunteers, and is a major end-of-summer economic generator for the whole town, as well as SFF’s largest fundraising activity of the year.
The Sisters Folk Festival organization does more than just put on a world-class music festival. A community-supported capital campaign was completed in late 2019, allowing SFF to purchase the site of its offices and largest festival venue, the Sisters Art Works building. The organization then used downtime during COVID to complete repairs and upgrades of the building, as well as to design and build an outdoor venue that recently hosted their Sisters Summer of Festival concert series. The venue’s new stage will be highlighted at this year’s festival.
Three creativity camps were held outdoors at Sisters Art Works over the summer of 2021, and SFF plans to continue to offer extracurricular classes, workshops and activities for the community at their facility in the future, especially once COVID is under control.
There are still limited tickets available to the 2021 Sisters Folk Festival, including a few single day passes. Check out sistersfolkfestival.org for current ticket information and an updated COVID policy.