News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Tunes and donations elevate Music in the Garden

A last-minute anonymous donation sparked excitement at Music in the Garden, an event featuring traditional Irish music. About 150 people attended, according to Darlene McGrady, who coordinated the event.

Sisters Community Garden is a nonprofit organization, but organizers weren’t raising money for their own group. Nonperishable edible goods were collected for Kiwanis Food Bank, and monetary gifts were gathered for Warfighter Outfitters.

Pleasant weather, before the heatwave, blessed the evening. Squashes ripened and sunflowers nodded in the evening sun, riffled by a light breeze. Audience members ate picnics they’d brought for the occasion. The Garden is located east of Sisters Eagle Airport, which provides the Garden with its space.

Bob Lawton took up the microphone and shared memories of Marvin Benson. Benson was an important supporter of Sisters Community Garden who passed away from cancer the previous week. He built fences and raised beds, and planted an apple tree now heavy with fruit. The crowd applauded with appreciation for “Marvin’s Gardens.”

Next up, Cort Horner from Warfighter Outfitters explained what the organization does. The nonprofit operates as a volunteer-run, veteran-run guide and outfitter. The group offers no-charge adventures — fishing, hunting, getting out on the water — to veterans and occasionally first responders. He noted that 23 veterans take their lives every day. The organization, he suggested, aims to save some of those lives.

The mood brightened as the Ballybogs started up with traditional Irish music: jigs and reels and more. Steve Lundgren, fiddle and mandolin player, said the garden might be the coolest venue the band has ever played.

The band, featuring musicians from Sisters, Redmond, and Bend, offered up songs like “The Fields of Athenry” and “Galway Bay.” Michael Long played uilleann pipes, or Irish bagpipe, much of the evening. He also played percussion. At one point he brought out what Lundgren called “the cosmic drainpipe” — a low-D pennywhistle — and played a fine tune.

Local musician Michele Sims delighted on her flute and took a turn on button accordion. Another local, Jeff Sims, played guitar. Vocal duties were shared by Amanda Wrenn, who also played fiddle, and Jason Herzog, who also played bouzouki and whistle. They harmonized on several numbers, and closed the evening with a goodbye song.

Then McGrady got on the mic for an unexpected announcement: an anonymous donor in the crowd had made a last-minute offer to match all the donations made to Warfighter Outfitters that night — up to $5,000.

“Cort Horner and I counted the cash donations,” said McGrady later. They counted $560 with a promise of another $100, “plus matching funds from the anonymous donor.”

Horner said of the event, “It was great! It’s always a privilege just to share with people about the organization and our mission. The anonymous donor coming forward was a huge surprise but not unprecedented. So many people have family members who are veterans and really understand how valuable resources like Warfighter Outfitters are to their reintegration into society and continued well-being after separation.”

He said the organization “truly appreciated” being the recipient of the community garden’s fundraising.

“At an average cost of under $20 per veteran for our outings — free to the vets, of course — we really make our funds go a long way,” he said.

Music in the Garden offered “a beautiful setting, wonderful and generous attendees, perfect weather, and great music,” Horner said. “What more could you ask for?”


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