Rumble on the Runway in jeopardy


Last updated 3/5/2024 at 9:11am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Sisters Eagle Airport's annual Fourth of July event has become extremely popular - which is pushing insurance costs and volunteer demands up.

The annual July 4th fly-in, car show, and drag-racing event at Sisters Eagle Airport, known as Rumble On The Runway, is in danger of disappearing from the Sisters event scene, a victim of its own success.

Airport co-owner, Julie Benson, told The Nugget "that the cost to insure the one-day event has risen by 500 percent and there are simply not enough of us to staff the event. We need many more volunteers."

In 2021 the event attracted about 1,500 people. That grew to around 2,000 to 2,500 in 2022, and last summer close to 4,000 (some say 5,000) packed the affair.

"It is no longer a locals-only event," Benson said. "Hundreds come from the Valley and as far as Madras, Prineville, and La Pine." Some of the fly-in planes come from Washington, Idaho, California, and Nevada."

That sounds like good news to local merchants and town promoters, but the sheer number is overwhelming Benson and her husband, Benny. Parking is a major issue, and there has been no traffic-control support from the Sheriff's Office or help from the City.

On Friday, when The Nugget told Mayor Michael Preedin of the possibility that the event cannot continue, he immediately reacted to the potential loss of the iconic event, one particularly loved by families.

"The community needs to come together to make sure this continues. This is too important for Sisters. And besides, it's a whole lot of fun," he said.

Preedin couldn't commit to anything concrete the City could do beyond "amplify the call for community support." He thought the event would be eligible for a Community Grant, a pool of money the City distributes every year to organizations vital in their mission of service benefiting Sisters.

"It's too late for this year, but I'd feel confident that they'd qualify and likely be awarded some support going forward," Preedin said.

Rotary Club of Sisters has long been a supporter of the event, manning the pancake and sausage breakfast that opens the day-long event. Rotary provides the labor and the Airport the ingredients and supplies. Profits from the breakfast go to the aviation and flight science program at Sisters High School.

Rotary President Bill Kelly said, "I have no doubt that we can solve the volunteer issue and we may even be able to help with the insurance cost. We'd probably be willing to become sole sponsors for the event and relieve the Bensons of the arduous job of putting it on."

Kelly, like Preedin, believes the community would step up in any number of ways. He's going to seek support from the new Downtown Sisters Business Association, who are keen on interactive promotions.

Word of the possible end of the event has spread on social media with residents somewhat stunned.

"This can't be true," lamented Phil Dalton, who brings no fewer than 15 extended family members every year.

"No way this happens," insisted Chloe Willis, whose grandkids come every year from Klamath Falls for the day.

The Bensons are taking a few days to examine all the options. Meanwhile Kelly is holding talks with community leaders to formulate an action plan.


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