Quilt Show is a Sisters sensation
Last updated 7/13/2022 at Noon
Would you pay $2,399 plus airfare to come to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show? Of course not. You live here. But 80 did, all part of Country Heritage Tours’ “2022 Sensational Sisters.” Two luxury motor coaches collected the group in Portland, gave them a drive-by tour of the Oregon Coast and the Columbia Gorge before bringing them to Sisters, the centerpiece of their week-long excursion.
They hailed from 17 different states, with one in the entourage from the Netherlands. On Friday they joined others at the high school as the four-day-long Quilter’s Affair drew to a close. In all, over 900 registered for Quilter’s Affair, which featured classes for every skill level taught by 26 master instructors.
Quilters journeyed to Sisters from across the states. Apart from Oregon and neighboring states, the majority of visitors were predominantly from southern and southeastern states, where quilting has deep roots. Left behind were whatever concerns they had about record inflation and gas prices. It was Quilt Week in Sisters and in they came, flashing broad smiles — and their wallets. Quilters traditionally spend generously across town. Shopkeepers and food-and-beverage purveyors strained to meet demand, complaining privately about the hardship imposed by continuing staffing shortages, which left some customers unable to complete a purchase.
Attendees knew how to party, too. They kept watering holes up late, and Sisters Liquor had to add three staff to keep quilters in good spirits.
The event caught some visitors by surprise. Saturday is typically a big day at Hardtails Bar & Grill on Larch, with dozens of serious Harley riders motoring to Sisters.
Mike Allen spoke for his group of 11 riders, bewildered by the festivities and the several quilts hanging from the pub’s front porch as they entered.
“This seems to be a pretty big deal,” he said. “Hadn’t quite factored that in for today.”
They doffed their leathers and helmets and took a stroll up Cascade to see what it was all about.
Lt. Chad Davis, head of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sisters Station, covered the day on bicycle while his deputies managed traffic on Cascade. Drivers were both well-mannered and gobsmacked. They often forgot to keep moving and gaper blocks formed frequently.
Most transiting Sisters got an up-close look at Americana in full display. They waved at pedestrians, snapping pictures and trying to comprehend the goings on.
It wasn’t just quilts. The town had a festival quality about it. Musicians and dancers entertained. Shopkeepers donned costumes. Austin Pfeiffer from Bend played his guitar, moving every half hour to a new spot, spreading his tunes around. Two for Jazz, a brass combo, took up a prime spot at Barclay Park offering popular favorites onlookers recognized.
The Sisters Dance Academy worked its way up and down Hood Avenue, stopping every block or so, drawing audiences as they performed athletic renditions in front of a boom box. Michael Jackson music got the spectators in a dance mood. Cell phone cameras “rolled,” capturing the animated moves.
One would be forgiven if they mistook Saturday as a hat show. For every quilt there was a bonnet or sun hat that served to shield its wearer from the bright sun — and serving as a fashion statement. Men joined in with a wide range of straw fedoras and Panama hats.
Spectators in walkers or wheeled chairs were not daunted, and navigated the crowded sidewalks deftly. For every 10 humans there seemed to be a dog, not infrequently in strollers. Hundreds took in the exhibition on bikes, although with so much to see the bikes were quickly parked or walked.
Maria Shell, a renowned Alaskan Quilter’s Affair instructor, said: “It just doesn’t get better than this. I teach all over the country and there’s nothing else that comes close to what happens in Sisters.”
Mary Jean Collier from Memphis was taking in her 32nd Sisters Quilt Show. She and friends make the trip yearly as a way to reconnect or keep close. “Sure, we’re quilters, but we’d come anyway. Sisters is just way too much fun,” Collier beamed.
Mary Kimberly came from Decatur, Georgia with her pal Charlotta Norley, who lives in Danville, Kentucky. They were here for the week, regulars since 2006.
“It’s not just quilting,” Kimberly said. “We’re birders too and y’all got such awesome places to find birds, way different than what we have.”
“Oh, you can’t beat this if you’re a serious quilter,” Cleo Urban said, speaking for her quilting club, 14 in number, who were making their ninth Show, a long drive from Bellingham, Washington. “What a super neat place this is.”
The postcard-perfect weather was a big topic of conversation, especially among those from the southern U.S. escaping temperatures near 100 with humidity to match.
The quilts came down at 4 p.m. on Saturday, as fast as they went up that morning, and by Sunday Sisters was back to the usual flow of summer tourists. No doubt talk of Quilt Week will continue for some time to come.