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A Multi-Day Festival in the Age of COVID-19 

Sisters Folk Festival opens livestream access to its sold-out Close To Home music festival

Normally, Sisters Folk Festival would be bringing in a huge number of touring artists and bands to Central Oregon right about now, with even more fans flocking to listen. With COVID-19 still among us, however, they’ve found an alternative.

Throughout the summer, SFF has gotten creative in making opportunities for people to see and hear live music. Whether it was converting a flatbed trailer into a stage for bands or live streaming its My Own Two Hands Celebration, SFF was determined to keep some of its programming alive. But even with these innovative ideas at hand, the nonprofit organization still had to make the tough decision to cancel its annual festival, planned for Sept. 11-13, to keep in line with safety protocols in the state of Oregon. Held on the festival’s originally planned weekend, SFF is hosting Close To Home 2, a multi-day festival set up on the Sisters Art Works lawn. The three-day festival is a follow-up to the first Close To Home concert, which was a one-day offering back in August. This time, things are going to be bigger.
Ron Artis II performs at Close To Home on Aug. 1. - JAY MATHER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jay Mather Photography
  • Ron Artis II performs at Close To Home on Aug. 1.
Performers at Close To Home 2 include Judith Hill, Thunderstorm Artis, AJ Lee and Blue Summit and The Parnells on Friday, then John Craigie, Kirsten Gainger & True North, Judith Hill and Thunderstorm Artis on Saturday. On Sunday, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Williams, Jenner Fox Band, AJ Lee and Blue Summit and John Craigie will wrap things up.

For those attending in person, the festival features two-person and four-person “pods.” Concert-goers sit in low-rise lawn chairs or on blankets and can be unmasked while sitting inside their pods. People must bring a mask or face covering with them, as anytime they step out of the pod they must be worn. There will be hand washing/sanitizing stations, touchless payment areas with plexiglass between workers and customers and constant sanitizing of high-touch areas.

“We had no reports of new infections or outbreaks from the first Close To Home in the days after the concert, and that prompted our staff to feel comfortable going forward with a more extensive, three-day event over the festival weekend. The scientific consensus is that outdoors is a much safer environment for any type of gathering during the pandemic, especially when physical distance is maintained,” Executive Director Crista Munro told the Source. “The safety of our people is our top priority, and knowing that we can deliver this experience safely during a global pandemic is critical not just to our organization, but to other cultural agencies who are looking for ways to continue fulfilling their mission and serving their communities until a viable vaccine or treatment for COVID is widely available.”

In-person tickets sold out incredibly fast for this festival, but SFF wanted to ensure that the need for concerts in the community was available for more, so they’ve created a livestream option for those who were unable to buy tickets.

“We settled on the model for this weekend back in July, then tested the concept on August 1 with our first live concert in six months. It went great! Seating pods sold out in less than 24 hours and the crowd was very compliant with all of the necessary safety regulations—our people tend to be caring and considerate anyway, so that combined with the sheer joy of being at a real concert made for a very happy audience.”

In the long run, Close To Home 2 might serve as a glimpse of the way we attend concerts for the near future: Spaced-out pods or sections, with limited attendance and safety guidelines in place. It’s not what we’re used to, but it’s better than the alternative of zero shows.

The livestream package ticketing option is $30 for all three days. For those who miss the live broadcast, a replay will be available until Sept. 30. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. (eventbrite.com/e/livestream-close-to-home-2-tickets-118990197885) 

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...
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