Merriment launches holiday season


Last updated 12/1/2021 at Noon

Santa made his annual appearance on Hood Avenue Saturday afternoon, as Sisters rolled into the Christmas season.Jack Turpen

Sisters knows how to kick-start Christmas. It all started Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the annual tree lighting ceremony in Fir Street Park. Actually, it began Friday morning with the 4th Friday Art Walk held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Along the art path, Stitchin’ Post displayed ornaments and assorted holiday decorations ranging from mini stockings to bottle toppers.

Shops up and down Cascade, Hood, and Main avenues (and in between) were pulling out all the stops to showcase their Christmas wares. Shoppers — many visiting relatives here for the holiday weekend — obliged by filling stores, often with little tykes in tow. Supply-chain issues nation-wide have put a renewed emphasis on buying local or filling shopping lists with craft and natural items.

The only sadness was the absence of Hal Reitmeier — “Santa Hal” — a beloved and long-time icon for Christmas in Sisters. Hal passed away earlier this month, leaving behind thousands of lives touched by his charm, wit, and characterization of Santa Claus.

The 21st annual tree lighting came off in pleasant, dry weather. By 5:30 p.m. there were already 300 or more gathered and as the festivities began another 100 or so rushed from the close-by Sisters Saloon and The Barn to join. As in the past, event sponsors and Mayor Michael Preedin spoke briefly in welcoming tones at which time the stage was turned over to a duo of Victorian Carolers who delivered a half dozen carols.

The songs were a mix of classic Christian hymns and kid favorites, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Jingle Bells.” The crowd sang along to varying degrees and when the legendary Leonard Cohen anthem “Hallelujah” was sung with lyrics of the nativity, the somewhat surprised audience gently swayed. Without exception everybody was in a festive mood and eager for the event that took a hiatus last year due to the pandemic.

At 5:59 p.m. the countdown started: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and with a flip of the switch the 65-plus-foot landmark tree illuminated its roughly 2,500 lights to the sheer delight of all.

“All” was an inter-generational mix of infants to octogenarians. Typical of the attendees was the Dawson family. Noni and Pops, residents, who were accompanied by three adult children and seven grandkids, ages between one and 9, all living on the east coast, and two Jack Russell terriers.

Daughter-in-law Maddie from Boston was especially touched by her first small town encounter with a tradition she wished she had experienced growing up.

“It makes me want to move here. We are already planning to come back in the summer for the rodeo,” she said gleefully, adding: “Our kids are even more excited about tomorrow’s parade.”

Ben and Alisha Moorland who moved to Sisters in June were not aware of the weekend’s festivities even after years of vacationing here.

“We just learned about this two hours ago,” the couple said.

“I can’t imagine ever not being here for it,” said Alisha with Ben adding, “This is one of so many reasons we left Seattle. This is organic, not what you see in similar events in the ‘city’ (air quotes) where it all seems a bit staged, almost superficial by comparison.”

Saturday at 2 p.m. was the annual parade on Hood Avenue followed by cookies and cocoa with Santa sponsored by Hayden Homes at McKenzie Meadows Park, a Hayden residential development. The parade is just what you would expect in Sisters — as many dogs and horses marching as vehicles of all manner of vintage or utility.

The parade began at Pine Street and ended at Larch Street, led by the color guard, an assortment of veterans from all branches of service. Bringing up the rear was Santa in a horse drawn carriage. Both sides of Hood were lined with broadly beaming faces under a broken sky. The temperature was 56, a far cry from some years when a number of folk recalled parades with snow.

The premier seats were in front of Sisters Coffee Co. and at Eurosports, both of whose outdoor tables were full. The seats of choice however were the at least 100 vehicles with raised cargo doors or lowered tailgates crammed with onlookers, many festooned with holiday attire. The Nugget counted no fewer than 80 dogs among the spectators. In all it appeared that a minimum of 1,000 viewed the event.

Kids scrambled to get candy tossed by drivers and tenders of parade entrants of which there were 20 registered. Some, however, like the fire department had multiple vehicles and when combined with marching dogs and horses, the parade increased in scale and variety.

The lighting of Sisters 65-foot community Christmas tree marked the official launch of the holiday season in Sisters.Jac Turpen

As the crowd dissipated, many headed to shops and watering holes much to the delight of shops and purveyors. A good number remained at their spot on Hood Avenue, reminiscing with friends and families, greeting strangers and generally inaugurating the Christmas season.

The scene at McKenzie Meadows Park located near the high school was a scene straight out of Americana. Children from the shy to the giddy lined nearly 100 deep to visit with Santa (aka Terry Rahmsdorff from Bend). Antonio Ramirez, age 6, schooled his brother Luis, 4, and sister, Alejandra, 2, in the best way to get on Santa’s good side. They were with mom and dad, Juana and Carlos who live in Springfield.

“We love coming to Sisters,” Juana told us.

“We spent the whole day here,” added Carlos who continued: “We came hoping to play in the snow but it was still OK. We didn’t know about the parade or Santa, so that was a really nice surprise. It will be hard to get the children to leave.”

And so it was that Christmas got rolling in Sisters Country.


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