News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters: Small town - big music

Ask anybody who attended the second Big Ponderoo Music and Art Festival, or who just wandered by, and they will tell you it had success written all over it.

"I've got a slogan for your Chamber of Commerce," Doyle McMaster of Hood River told The Nugget. "Small town. Big music."

"No," interrupted his partner, Liz Driscoll. "Small town. Huge music."

Photo by Cody Rheault

Hogslop String Band energized the crowd at Big Ponderoo.

Like dozens of others The Nugget interviewed, searching particularly for those who had travelled long distances for the event, the consensus was that Sisters, with Big Ponderoo, outperformed many larger venues.

"The music just couldn't be better," said Lyle Waters from Spokane, Washington. "We spend a month going from festival to festival, and this is the cherry on the top."

His brother Bo compared Big Ponderoo to the Boise Music Festival they attended the week before: "That's a spectacle - thousands sitting all crammed together - no intimacy. Here, we got better music, more music, and a feeling, an experience that doesn't come close to anything else."

It was that "feeling" which seemed at the centerpiece of two full days of music featuring 16 acts. Spread out in chairs and blankets on the cool, velvety Village Green grass, near capacity attendees were able to stretch out and take in the entire setting with elbow room to spare.

Photo by Cody Rheault

Big Ponderoo offered a relaxed yet energetic musical experience at Village Green park.

"You can't beat the location and you darned sure can't beat the music," Tara Meadows from Orinda, California, said. "It's like sitting in a little patch of paradise," she added, gazing around at the skies, massive ponderosa pines and park. Meadows was part of a group of 11 who met up at Creekside Campground where she said the mood continued long into the night.

One of her fellow campers, Sol Chertoff, agreed.

"It's not just the music which blew our socks off, but the good vibes. It's more than mellow. It's actually kind of magical," Chertoff said.

"Everybody was barefoot, Sol, nobody had socks," teased fellow traveler Alicia Towers.

Indeed, most folks kicked off their shoes, put on much-needed sunscreen, and generally basked in fair temperatures accompanied by gentle breezes.

Ticket holders came in casually, unhurriedly on Saturday, and by midafternoon later arrivals were forced to take space far to the sides, occasionally out of sight of the stage.

"It doesn't matter that I can't see them," said Robbie Pelton from Hillsboro, laid out on a blanket, hands cradling her head. "I can hear them. That's what it's all about. The music. The lyrics. This is kind of a live dream."

Eclectic food trucks ranging from Greek to seafood filled tummies, and the bar had beer, cider, cocktails, wines, and a choice of non-alcoholic beverages. Children were feted with a host of arts and crafts activities, and being in Village Green, kids who needed a diversion had the playground at the doorstep.

Skybound Blue, Skillethead, and Shadowgrass successively delighted the crowds and at 3 p.m. The Sam Chase & The Untraditional uncorked it, bringing hundreds to their feet in spontaneous dancing.

"There's something about a horn (trumpeter Zachary Thorne) that gets the juices going," an animated Bari Vaughan said as she and her pals danced in rhythm to the music, drink cups held high in their hands.

And so it went all afternoon and into the evening with Shinyribs bringing it to a close just after 11 p.m. The Austin-based supergroup is led by Kevin Russell, a charismatic frontman with colorful suits and extravagant shoes who continuously swaps out an electric guitar for a ukulele and never falls short of creating a cinematic experience with on-stage antics

There was no rush to the exits. No traffic to beat. In fact, folks didn't want it to end. After 11 hours, they would have stayed for more.

More came Sunday. A repeat of the magic Chertoff talked about the day before. Eleven more acts with a range of talent and genres that covered a panorama of tastes. Silverada closed and what a close it was.

The band typified the pedigree of the lineup. Bands with large followings, shelves full of awards, sold out performances, albums selling in the hundreds of thousands. Silverada's next stop - the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Photo by Cody Rheault

Big Ponderoo brought multiple strains of Americana music to the stage.

"Hmmn? From Sisters to Nashville. Sounds about right to me," said Luke Farrow in assessing the weekend. "Hope folks here know how good they've got it."

SFF Presents Executive Director Crista Munro could not have been more satisfied.

"We're so pleased with how much Big Ponderoo has grown in just its second year," she said. "Once again, the community of Sisters stepped up to roll out the welcome mat for people from 24 states (and one Canadian Province) to enjoy a stellar weekend of Americana, bluegrass, and alt-country music from some of the best touring artists in the country.

"The smiles were abundant throughout the weekend. Moving the festival to Village Green, among the festival's namesake ponderosa pines, brought the event into the heart of Sisters, where Ponderoosters were spotted frequenting the shops and restaurants of downtown all three days. From the music to the weather to the giant dancing puppets, we couldn't have hoped for a better weekend."


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