Kick off summer and kick up your heels at the inaugural Big Ponderoo Music Festival. Sisters Folk Festival’s newest music event will be taking place on June 24-25, 2023 in the heart of Sisters, Oregon. Big Ponderoo brings fresh energy to Sisters Folk Festival’s mission of “strengthening community and transforming lives through music and art.” With an impressive 16-act lineup performing at two new outdoor venues, a three-day music workshop and room for camping, Big Ponderoo has all the ingredients for a true festival experience. Bring your picnic blankets, dancing boots or bare feet and get ready for an intimate music experience filled with an incredible lineup of Americana, country, blues, gospel, and bluegrass talent with the soul of Sisters.
How Big Ponderoo Was Born
The creation of Big Ponderoo has been a long-time dream at Sisters Folk Festival. It was born out of a collective vision and desire to create something new and fresh early in the summer that would widen the festival’s audience base, Communications Manager Erin Pihl explained. The light-hearted name reflects the energy that inspired the creation of the festival. Ponderoo is a play on the word ponderosa, said Pihl. “Our creative director Brad Tisdel wanted to celebrate the massive ponderosas that characterize Central Oregon, as well as a sense of place, and the fun, fresh feel we envisioned for the festival,” she said. At Big Ponderoo, taking place under the sun, moon and stars, music lovers are invited to bring their tarps and chairs, tents and sandwiches, and camp out at either venue. Or they are welcome to hop back and forth between the two venues via a short walk, or opt to bike and park at the festival provided bike valet. To toast the summer vibe, Three Creeks Brewing has custom-crafted a Ponderoo Pale Ale, a light sunny ale to enjoy while soaking in the sounds and sights of the festival.
Where to Watch
Musical performances will take place at Sisters Art Works and Three Creeks Brewing’s event spaces. “The mountain views at Three Creeks are amazing,” Pihl said, “probably the best vantage point in town to see the Three Sisters Mountains.” The lineup for Big Ponderoo is filled with vibrant talent sure to get you grooving. The event is headlined by The War and Treaty, an internationally renowned husband/wife duo whose masterful blend of Americana, Southern soul, blues, folk, rock and gospel earned them a nomination for the 2023 “Duo of the Year ” by the Academy of Country Music Awards. Enhancing the festival’s music scene, Big Ponderoo is also hosting the Ponderoo Arts Experience throughout the week, exploring self-expression through the visual arts, including a dynamic Art Stroll complete with more live music at galleries around Sisters.
Music lovers are also invited to bring out their own instruments for Camp Ponderoo, a three-day workshop June 18-21, led by multi-instrumentalist greats from the bluegrass band FY5, who have taught bluegrass camps across the country. Formerly called The Bluegrass Jam Camp, Camp Ponderoo will kick off the festival and is designed for amateur-to-advanced musicians, for the young and the young at heart. “Everybody is very encouraging,” Pihl said, “Camp Ponderoo is a space to explore that side of yourself, to lean in to other people who are like minded. People come together and do song circles and jam sessions, leading up to a concert at the end where the participants get to perform for an audience.” Fostering creativity, community and a love of music is the goal for Sisters Folk Festival, so participation in the camp is based on a “pay what you can” philosophy, making it accessible for everyone. All you need to participate in Camp Ponderoo is a passion for music and the desire to learn in the company of fellow artists.
Why Attend Big Ponderoo
Big Ponderoo brings a different energy to the myriad music festivals in Central Oregon. Since it is an independent, nonprofit event, attending Big Ponderoo is an investment in the community and festival goers will feel that friendly, close-knit community energy. “We are offering something very intimate where you’re up close and personal with the artists,” said Pihl. “Going to Sisters makes you feel transported back in time, to a quieter pace. The festival will have that laid back, getaway feeling.”
Sisters Folk Festival is passionate about including all who are inspired by music and are hosting a free community event to begin the Big Ponderoo festivities at Sisters Artworks on Friday, June 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Listen to the modern twists on traditional bluegrass and American sounds from the bands Never Come Down and Twisted Pine as you dance with friends, sip and nibble on local fare, take in art displays and interactive arts events, and embrace the intimate community vibe to kick off Sisters’ newest summer festival Big Ponderoo.
The Weekend Lineup
SATURDAY, June 24
12:00 – 1:00 PM Honey Don’t
1:30 – 2:30 PM The Last Revel
3:00 – 4:00 PM Never Come Down
4:30 – 5:30 PM Mile Twelve
6:00 – 7:00 PM Twisted Pine
7:30 – 8:45 PM The Lil’ Smokies
9:15 – 10:45 PM The Travelin’ McCourys
12:15 – 1:15 PM FY5
1:45 – 2:45 PM Mile Twelve
3:15 – 4:15 PM Laney Lou & The Bird Dogs
4:45 – 5:45 PM Jon Stickley Trio
6:15 – 7:15 PM Margo Cilker
7:45 – 9:00 PM Dustbowl Revival
9:30 – 11:00 PM The War and Treaty
12:00 – 1:00 PM Jon Stickley-led Guitar Workshop*
*Free and open to the public. No pass is required.
SUNDAY, June 25
11:00 – 12:00 PM FY5
12:15 – 1:15 PM Laney Lou & The Bird Dogs
1:45 – 2:45 PM Mile Twelve
3:15 – 4:15 PM Jon Stickley Trio
4:45 – 6:00 PM The Lil’ Smokies
6:30 – 8:00 PM The Lone Bellow
11:00 – 12:00 PM Skillethead
12:30 – 1:30 PM Twisted Pine
2:00 – 3:00 PM Never Come Down
3:30 – 4:30 PM The Last Revel
5:00 – 6:00 PM Margo Cilker
6:30 – 8:00 PM Corb Lund
12:00 – 1:00 PM Qattlebaum-led Banjo Workshop*
1:00 – 3:00 PM Pickin’ at the Barn*