News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Rumblings in Sisters

Notwithstanding that some 1,000 quilters were in town on Independence Day, downtown was eerily quiet. The quilters were mostly ensconced in classrooms at Sisters High School for Quilter's Affair.

Most everybody else in Sisters - at least those who stayed in town for the holiday - made way to Sisters Eagle Airport for the 10th Rumble on the Runway and fly-in event. Cars were parked three quarters of a mile in every direction. About half came on foot or bike, many pushing strollers or pulling wagons filled with tykes.

They started early, 7 a.m., scarfing up a pancake and sausage breakfast put on by Rotary Club of Sisters.

"It had to have been a thousand served," said Julie Benson, airport co-owner.

"More than ever," added husband, Benny.

"More" was the entire day in one word. More planes. More cars. More people. Cars as in 300 classic, antique or vintage models, 60 of which later raced in drag fashion down the runway. Each paid a $15 entry fee. Those fees and breakfast sales income will result in a major contribution to the aviation program at Sisters High School.

A 5K run kicked the morning off with more than 150 runners racing down the runway to start the annual run. Will Thorsett and John Peckham, recent Outlaw grads, tied for first at 15:58. Their friend Michael McCausland of Portland finishing shortly behind them.

Damon Frutos, a Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District Engineer/Medic, sang the national anthem at 9 a.m. as the crowd fell to dead, reverent silence. Mayor Michael Preedin was on hand, nothing official, merely to have fun as were the record number of attendees.

The organizers think the number was close to 5,000. Nobody guessed fewer than 4,000. Longtime observers seem content with 4,500, a good thousand more than the town population.

The day before, Oregon National Guard flew in a giant, twin rotor Chinook CH-47 helicopter piloted by Anthony Ives whose parents live in Sisters. For nearly four hours, lines 80-100 long, filed into the cavernous craft. The crew reported that 2,500 had streamed through the aviation icon, a record for the six of its static demonstrations.

The aerial antics of the gyrocopter flown by Sisters own Gyro Tom (Smith) was a clear crowd favorite as necks were craned and whipped to keep pace with the maneuvers. Boys and girls made arm motions and swishing sounds in synchronicity.

Likewise when Fred Ortman, Sisters resident and President of Cascade Flyers RC (Remote Control) put his model plane through jaw-dropping gyrations. His was one of three demonstration by the Club including a 30-inch model helicopter that left the crowd gasping.

By now it was lunch time and Rotary Club, having sold out breakfast, cranked up the grill for a Sisters Meat & Smokehouse brat lunch. It was time for the Great Rubber Chicken Drop, always a crowd pleaser. Hey, it's Sisters, right? Fun is where you find it.

Attendees were settling in for the main event - Rumble on the Runway. Folding chairs and makeshift cushions lined both sides of the runway for half its length. Onlookers were three, four and sometimes five deep as 30 pairs of vehicles roared down the runway.

It was drag racing Sisters- style. It was serious business for the racers, some in cars with $100,000-plus price tags. For the crowd it was pure fun with lots of hilarity thrown in. Such as when a giant diesel over-the-road tractor was matched up against an actual Chevy Impala stock car.

The sound of the engines and spinning tires could be heard on Main Avenue. Nearly as loud was the collective cheering and hooting by fans ranging from toddlers to some in their 90s.

As the last of the cars finished their sprints and the crowds giddily headed home, the Chinook lifted off at 2:24 in a cloud of dust. Thus it was Independence Day, 2023 in Sisters.


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