Buckmann retiring from Sisters Chamber
Last updated 5/18/2021 at Noon
When Jeri Buckmann closes the door of the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center building behind her the end of this month, she will be saying goodbye not only to her 21-year job as event coordinator, but also to a way of life.
“I am retiring from a way of life that involved my family. Whatever I did was integrated into the Chamber,” she said. “Sara and Adam (her grown children) were always helping out during the events, taking posters around town and even working with some of the vendors so they received life lessons as well. A huge thank you to my husband, Bob. He was always there, helping in any way needed, whether at the event or in the Chamber. So, thank you to my family for being on this wonderful memory. And thank you to the people of Sisters for being a part of my life for 21 years.”
Jeri remembers fondly her earliest days with the Chamber starting as a volunteer when the office was over behind Leavitt’s Western Wear (now Dixie’s).
“The Chamber had a lot of volunteers working in the office. We had a great time. Then a part-time opening for the events coordinator became available. I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds perfect, plus a great way to get involved with the community,’” she recalls.
Involved in the community is an understatement. With no previous experience in event planning, Jeri took over responsibilities for four Saturday Markets, the antique show, the Harvest Faire, and the Christmas show at the elementary school, and the tree lighting, “which,” she recalls, “consisted of Bob Grooney (of The Gallimaufry) flipping the switch for lights on a small blue spruce out in front of the Chamber, and we had a fire pit in the front lawn. I think only 25 people came but it was community. That’s all that mattered.”
The City tree lighting grew from its simple beginnings to moving to Barclay Park with music by the High Desert Chorale and large trees donated by the Deschutes Land Trust. Buckmann recalled the fun outings, complete with doughnuts provided by the Chamber, with Gary Frazee (then public works director) and several volunteers to choose the tree and tag it in October. Prior to Thanksgiving, diners at The Gallery Restaurant were able to watch the tree being installed in the park. One year, strong winds blew the tree over but, luckily, Buckmann discovered it and had it back up before anyone realized.
The tree lighting outgrew Barclay Park and now takes place at Fir Street Park on a tree actually growing in the park. The City has taken over stringing the lights, and the crowd on the Friday evening of Thanksgiving weekend fills the park.
On Saturday after the Christmas tree lighting, the Christmas Parade on Hood Avenue marks the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who meet with the children after the parade at the Chamber office; thus begins the Christmas shopping season in downtown Sisters. Buckmann recalled one year when, due to heavy snow, Santa had to arrive on a snowmobile supplied by the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Foundation. Her husband, Bob, has been the parade announcer for years.
Another year, Jeri’s golden retriever Jake was part of the “Golden Brigade,” walking or riding in a pickup truck down Hood. Jake let everyone know they were coming by barking the entire length of the parade route.
Jeri’s regret is that she never got to stand on the sidewalk and watch the entire parade. Hopefully, this year.
After Buckmann’s job required her to work full-time, she changed the names of the Saturday Market to Sisters Summer Faire and the Western Native American Art Show. She added a car show, bead show, and did a lumberjack show and demonstration along with a barbecue contest.
“The Harvest Faire was always a constant and I am very proud to have been part of it,” she said. “I know I helped it grow into the event it is today. I worked very hard to keep its reputation for the quality of vendors. It draws thousands of people to town during the off-season, which in turn helps the businesses going into winter. In addition to events, I took on Chamber membership, the visitor center, and anything else that needed to be done. I have had so many great opportunities, including traveling to places promoting Sisters.”
The connections made by Buckmann through her job at the Chamber led to a number of volunteer opportunities including with the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show and My Own Two Hands art auction. Having always been involved with horses, joining the Sisters Rodeo Association in 2000 seemed like a good fit, and she has held many volunteer positions there. Both of the kids volunteered along with Bob and Jeri, always making it a family affair.
“My daughter, Sara, was very involved with rodeo from a young age,” Buckmann said. “She started riding in peewee rodeo and went through high school rodeo along with Sisters High School equestrian team. Then she started doing the rodeo queen tryouts. Sara always said she wanted to be Sisters Rodeo Queen, and she was in 2012. That was quite a proud time for Bob and me, local girl being the queen. I am still very involved with the Rodeo and will continue to do so.”
Upon arriving in Sisters in 1997, the Buckmanns found a very different town from the Sisters of today.
“I believe the population was like 695 within the city limits. The sewer system was not in yet. There were events going on here then. Of course, traffic was much less and the downtown did not have as many businesses. Ray’s was where Bi-Mart stands today and FivePine was not built yet. The high school was where the middle school is now. City Hall was on Fir Street where the park is, and the library was in the current chamber of commerce building. Once the sewer system was put in, growth began, slowly at first, but steady. I do remember when the news said that in the year 2010 the population of Sisters would have tripled. I thought they were crazy. Wow, how wrong I was.”
When asked about her plans for the future, Jeri said, “I don’t know.
I will take it a step at a time.
It will take me some time to decompress.
After 21 years of doing things for the community and a job that was filled with events, I’m just not sure where the days will take me.
Bob and I will take some trips and just be thankful… I have a new granddaughter who was eight months old on May 9.
I plan to spend time with her.
I plan to go back and visit Adam, who lives in Virginia.
My love is horses so I will be riding more.
Two years ago, I started growing a garden so I will do something with that.
A friend and I are planning to hike part of the McKenzie River Trail this summer.
In the winter I will ski and snowshoe.
I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Jeri and her 5-year-old English cream golden retriever, Wyatt, may do some more therapy dog work at assisted living facilities. Wyatt has been the official Chamber mascot, coming to work with Jeri every day and greeting all the visitors. His days now will likely include more hikes and horseback rides.
One thing is certain, Buckmann said: “I’m not going anywhere. We are staying in Sisters.”