News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

As 'Americana' as it gets

A friend told me the other day that he gets downright sentimental about a small-town parade. Heart-bursting, tear-welling sentimental.

That’s a wonderful thing. It signals a connection to something truly valuable — a genuine, homegrown sense of community that doesn’t exist everywhere.

Sisters has long punched well above its weight when it comes to creating events that are 100-proof, world-class — and yet celebrate a hometown vibe. Nothing exemplifies that more than the Sisters Rodeo Parade, which trooped down Cascade Avenue on Saturday morning before sidewalks packed with cheering visitors and locals.

Many of the locals have attended every Rodeo Parade since they’ve been in Sisters — and for a lot of those folks that means decades. Some of them planned to head down to the Rodeo Grounds for the action later in the day. For some, the parade itself was the


“This is the show,” one longtime resident said.

The Rodeo itself celebrates Sisters. Sure, there are big corporate sponsors like Crown Royal and Dodge Trucks — but the Rodeo, run by local volunteers — goes out of its way to promote its local sponsors and to encourage its audience to shop and dine in Sisters. The Sisters Rodeo is big-time — broadcast on the Cowboy Channel and drawing champions with a big purse — but it is also still our small-town rodeo. Walking that line is a tricky feat, and The Biggest Little Show in the World gets it done in style.

Sisters has one of the most unique and exciting Fourth of July celebrations in the region, at Sisters Eagle Airport. Totally homegrown, and as fine a way to celebrate America’s Independence Day as has ever been devised.

The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has an international footprint, drawing artists from around the globe to the biggest event of its kind in the country. Yet it remains locally focused and full of ineffable small-town charm.

On June 24-25, the Sisters Folk Festival will launch Big Ponderoo, a new festival that celebrates “Americana” music (see the special section program in this edition). The Americana Music Association defines the genre as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”

Like Rodeo or the Quilt Show, Big Ponderoo celebrates traditional arts, heritage and practices, not by trying to suspend them in amber, but by showcasing them in ways that are vital, exciting, and satisfying in the here and now.

The culture and sense of community that Sisters builds around its Western heritage, around arts and music, is a rare and wonderful thing. The healthy ecosystem hundreds of community members have built over decades faces threats from big corporate players who see the audience that Sisters has built from the grassroots up and want a piece of the action — but without the hometown soul.

We have built something of value here. If we want to keep it, we have to nurture it. Fortunately for us, that’s not an onerous task. All we have to do is get out and partake of community offerings that are as “Americana” as it gets.

Jim Cornelius

Editor in Chief

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


Reader Comments(0)