News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Volunteers make inaugural Big Ponderoo roll

Traffic was thick in Sisters last weekend. Not only were there the usual suspects – tourists eastbound and westbound, a good number stopping in our patch to slake thirsts, fuel tummies, or otherwise sample the local charm - but hundreds joined locals for a festive weekend led by a first of its kind music fest – the Big Ponderoo.

At the same time well over 100 cyclists assembled in Sisters for a four-day, four-stage, 350-mile epic gravel bike ride, part of the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder series.

Over at the middle school, hundreds more kids and parents met up for a baseball tournament for players ranging from ages 9 to 14 sponsored by Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce.

Big Ponderoo turned out 16 rotating acts on two stages for two days of top notch Americana and bluegrass music. The number one question in Sisters for a week has been: "How did they come up with that name?"

Sisters Folk Festival Festival Creative Director Brad Tisdel gave The Nugget a look behind the curtain.

Festival patron and volunteer Rob Corrigan offered up "Ponderoo" in a festival-naming brain-storming session. The name was a little too close to the legendary Bonaroo festival, and Tisdel thought the name needed one more word.

On a walk, he mused that when you're walking out into a meadow in Sisters Country there always seems to be one big ponderosa pine that catches your eye. He suggested making it "Big Ponderoo" - and so it became.

And big it was. Fans are hoping it's repeated.

"The inaugural Big Ponderoo brought some of today's most talented Americana, bluegrass, and newgrass artists to Sisters for a glorious weekend of community, music, and art. It was a successful foundation for what we hope will become another signature annual cultural celebration in Central Oregon," Crista Munro, executive director, told The Nugget.

Big Ponderoo came off without a hitch in large part due to some 264 volunteers who did all sorts of front-line and back-office work. Festival staff, no strangers to premier music events, had the know-how and commitment to pull off a massive undertaking so close to the annual Sisters Folk Festival.

Included in the effort was the painting of a full wall mural on a new barn shed behind Sisters Art Works, where the Folk Festival keeps its offices and which is a major performance venue.

"Music Brings the World Together" was created by local artist and middle school art teacher Judy Fuentes. The mural was painted by a cadre of volunteers. The interactive image invites onlookers to join the pictured band for a photo op as the ensemble appears to be missing its saxophone player.

Three Creeks Brewing Co. was all in for Big Ponderoo, turning its lawn on Barclay Drive into one of the two stages for the event. Moreover, they introduced a new brew - Ponderoo Pale Ale.

Big Ponderoo was noticeable for the number of families with small children. Children under 5 were admitted for free. Many attendees turned the event into a happening, organizing in groups, picnicking, dancing, and furthering friendships. While music was at the core of the weekend, community was a close second.

Parking, as it turned out, was a nonissue as concert goers deftly navigated nearby streets. That as many as 120 came by bicycle was a benefit. Blazin Saddles hosted secure bike valet parking at both venues.

The two free workshops held at The Barn were well attended and much praised. Sisters Folk Festival board member Steve Rudolph was pleased with the way the event came off.

"The Sisters Folk Festival staff once again outdid itself," he said. "Their artistic, organizational, and operational expertise shined through, from the Friday night collaborative art walk and amazing free community concert to the two days of the Big Ponderoo. Community participation and audience engagement was evident throughout the weekend with all enjoying a fabulous weekend. Five stars, especially for a first-time event!"


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