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Not Folking Around 

The 21st Annual Sisters Folk Festival arrives

Often selling out weeks in advance, the SFF is fun and folky for all who attend. Photos courtesy of Sisters Folk Festival.

Often selling out weeks in advance, the SFF is fun and folky for all who attend. Photos courtesy of Sisters Folk Festival.

The Sisters Folk Festival has come a long way since its inception in 1995. For one, the number of bands and popularity of the acts has grown considerably. Eleven venues from all over Sisters participate—and this year included—the festival sells out weeks before the event. Central Oregon might have several music festivals throughout the year, but this one usually tends to be the one to beat.

This year's acts include some of the finest musicians working today. Whether it's the brilliant British folk rocker Richard Thompson, the bluesy/gospel explosion of Ruthie Foster, or lesser-known but soon-to-be classic acts like The Good Time Travelers, Mipso and Sam Lewis, this year's festival is one for the record books.

We had a few words with Sisters Folk Festival Creative Director Brad Tisdel about the path the Festival has taken, the future of the Festival and keeping the integrity of Sisters.

Source Weekly: I wanted to start by asking about your history with the festival. How long have you been with it?

Brad Tisdel: I was a song contest finalist the first two years. Since 2000 I've helped create the Americana Project and started the Song Academy with my own two hands and much of the programming we do in the schools. Since 2003, I've been doing the booking as artistic director, and acted as executive and artistic director from 2008 to 2014. We have grown and developed and added stages almost every year since.

SW: What do you feel is the most important mission of the festival?

BT: Empowering people to build community through music and the arts and serve and contribute to a thriving, dynamic community in Sisters. I am most proud of the way all of our programming integrates with the community, young people and education in the schools.

SW: How is this year's festival different from others? I've noticed the artists you book each year get more and more impressive.

BT: The festival's motto is "All the town's a stage" and we believe in including the entire community, which builds a thriving, dynamic scene. Many of the venues support private businesses who in turn support the organization. Couple that with music and arts in the schools and academies, and events outside of the schools, and it's more of a community movement than individual parts within the community. The model also allows us to book developing artists and legacy artists, and place them all in different stages throughout town. Our intent and hope is to keep the integrity and the character of the event for years to come.

SW: What's your long term view of the fest? Do you want to see it evolve into something different? Larger? Do you want to keep it a small-town music festival? It seems to be getting bigger every year.

BT: We are trying to continually improve the programming we do and having intimate, extraordinary music experiences rather than disparate focus at larger venues.

SW: Will overnight camping passes ever become part of the fest?

BT: We've been working on trying to accommodate campers, but with it being in town, we've essentially left them to their own choices and appreciate the partnership we have with (the) city. Plus, there is camping outside of town in many areas.

Sisters Folk Festival

Friday, Sept. 9-Sunday, Sept. 11

Check sistersfolkfestival.org for pricing, times, locations and ticket availability

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