COVID concerns forces cancelation of 2020 Sisters Folk Festival

The Sisters Folk Festival is the latest event casualty of COVID-19, with organizers postponing the gathering until September 2021.

Steven Remington, development director for the festival, sent a note to sponsors Wednesday morning.

“As you know on May 7 the Oregon governor announced there would be “no concerts, sporting events or large gatherings taking place at least through the end of September without major modifications,'” Remington wrote. “Since that day, our team has been exploring what those modifications might look like for the Sisters Folk Festival (Masks? Social distancing? Micro-sized, assigned venues? A virtual festival?) and, simply put, we just can’t see how that would work for our community.”

In a press release on the event website, organizers said even with those necessary modifications in place, there is no guarantee that state-wide restrictions won’t be re-imposed if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon over the next weeks and months.

“Lots of our people travel here from outside of the area, including the performing artists. They need to know, with certainty, what is happening with the festival this fall. Unfortunately, certainty is something that no one can provide right now,” said SFF Executive Director Crista
Munro. “We know that this news is very disappointing, and we had hoped to not have to deliver it, but the well-being of our entire community is our primary concern. It’s clear that no matter how much we want to have a festival this September, the scientific and medical community
doesn’t yet understand enough about how this disease is spread for us to safely bring a lot of people together with confidence. We don’t even know for sure what phase of opening our state will be in four months from now; it all depends on how these first few weeks of re-opening go. I think people will understand that we held off on making this call for as long as we could, hoping for a breakthrough that would allow us to proceed with the festival.”

Creative director Brad Tisdel adds, “Each year we carefully curate a festival lineup that includes musical and cultural diversity. With 40+ musical acts coming from all over the country and world, it’s clear we can’t make the 2020 festival happen as planned. I’m currently working with agents and artists to bring THIS lineup to next year’s festival, with all the collaboration and musical alchemy coming together to create an extraordinary experience. We look forward to celebrating it with you in 2021 and thank you for your support and belief in Sisters Folk Festival.”

Tickets to this year’s festival will be automatically rolled over to the 2021 event, unless the purchaser elects to get a festival loyalty package; to donate their ticket purchase price to Sisters Folk Festival, a nonprofit organization; or requests a refund by June 30.

Sisters Folk Festival is still planning to have some type of event over the September 11-13 weekend, most likely a livestreamed program with a small live audience if state guidelines allow it.

The organization is also looking into ways to deliver live music programming on a small scale to residents of Central Oregon later this summer. Details will be forthcoming as plans take shape.


▶️ Sisters women wins over $126K in Keno Jackpot


After being laid off from her job at The Gallery Restaurant, Sisters resident Lorna Hewitt found part-time work at a grocery store, where she sold hand-made face masks.

Hewitt didn’t know the face masks she sewed would help her win more than one hundred thousand dollars.

“So I’ve always played an 8-spot and I saw the bonus was getting big, so I took one hundred dollars of my mask money and came down and played 50 games,” Hewitt said. “My mom was sitting next to me on the couch and I said oh my God, I think I just won the 8-spot.”

Hewitt went back to the Mainline Station in Sisters where she bought the winning ticket, which was worth $126,789.

“I didn’t say anything beforehand, and the gal was just staring at the screen,” Hewitt said. “I said, ‘I think it’s real.'”

As a thanks for selling her the winning ticket, Hewitt gave employee Katie Reznick a handful of cash.

“She’s the nicest woman on this planet, so if anyone could win, I’m so thrilled it’s her,” Reznick said.

Hewitt plans to use the money to pay off bills and save for retirement.

“I’m 65 and I’m semi-retired, I just have social security and I’ll have to work several days a week, but I won’t have to work as long now,” Hewitt said. “It’s my retirement.”

The winnings will also go toward making more face masks for the community.

“I went to the fabric shop in Salem right after I got my check,” Hewitt said.


▶️ Deschutes Co. proposes $500M budget


Deschutes County Administrator Tom Anderson says that while COVID-19 has had some effects, the county’s strong tax base and reserves have allowed it to remain in a strong financial position.

“Much of what we’ll be talking about this week with the budget committee is really the ongoing effects, and frankly we don’t know them all yet,” Anderson said.

Though Anderson says they’re still discussing what will happen if and when Deschutes county sees cuts in the future, the county is hoping to fund several projects with its proposed $500 million budget.

Projects include putting in roundabouts along Old-Bend Redmond Highway, reconstruction of 17th street in Redmond, and continue to help fund the county’s new Crisis Stabilization Center.

“We have enough funding from the county to operate Monday through Friday until 9 p.m.,” said Holly Harris, program manager for Deschutes County Health Services.

Funding from Central Oregon Health Council will allow the center to be open on the weekends through 9 p.m., and Harris says they are working on another grant that would allow them to stay open 24/7 by the fall.

“We’re doing a soft opening June 1st because COVID did set us back a little bit, not too bad considering what we’re dealing with,” said Harris. “But we were originally supposed to open May 1st.”

The immediate effects of COVID-19 have also been felt at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center, and event-related impacts will likely continue into next year.

The county also expects next year to see reductions in state and federal revenue which would affect health services and community justice.

“Certainly Fair and Expo was a department that got hit the soonest and the hardest by the pandemic,” Anderson said.

Anderson says that 80 to 90% of the fair and expo’s revenue comes from events.

With events canceled, the county is now hoping to avoid employee layoffs in the department.

“The budget committee will make a decision this week on if we’re able to subsidize that department and infuse reserve funds from elsewhere in order to keep the department whole,” Anderson said.

And if they can’t infuse those funds, Anderson says layoffs are possible.

“We’re hoping to avoid that, but we can never guarantee anything,” Anderson said.

The Budget Committee is expected to wrap up discussions by the end of the week with a new budget approved by mid-June.

Sisters woman uses mask money for Keno, wins nearly $127K

SALEM, Ore. – Lorna Hewitt of Sisters didn’t expect a few hours in front of a sewing machine would produce nearly $127,000 in addition to the face masks she was making.

After being laid off from her job at a restaurant, Hewitt found part-time work at a local grocery store. It was there she got the idea to make facemasks for her co-workers.

“They liked them so much, they started giving me some money for them,” Hewitt said. “So, I started selling them, because my boss couldn’t order any more, there was a shortage.”

Hewitt said using money from making facemasks, she bought a Keno 8-spot ticket from the Sister’s Main Line.

“I don’t play a lot, but thought I was doing something to help, maybe I would win,” she said.

When she found out she won $126,789 on a Keno 8-spot ticket, she said she felt guilty.

“I was making the masks with fabric I already had, and I just happen to get in at a good time,” she said.

Her first stop after claiming her prize at the Oregon Lottery headquarters was Joann Fabrics in Salem for more mask-making supplies.

“My masks are popular, and I want to keep making them – and maybe some other things,” she said.

Hewitt claimed her prize after making an appointment with the Oregon Lottery. The Oregon Lottery offices are still closed pending guidance from Gov. Kate Brown.

To protect the health and safety of its employees and the public, the Oregon Lottery has temporarily closed the Salem and Wilsonville Lottery offices.

Officials with the Lottery continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. If players have a winning ticket, they can fill out a claim form on the Oregon Lottery website, , and then mail in the signed ticket and claim form.

Players who have winning tickets of $50,000 or more, will need to make an appointment to come to the Oregon Lottery office in Salem. Call 503-540-1000 for assistance. As always, players should be certain to sign the back of their tickets.

Sisters man arrested for breaking into house, stealing items

A Sisters man was arrested on Wednesday for breaking into a house in Sisters and stealing several items before fleeing, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. William Bailey said deputies were dispatched on Wednesday afternoon to a house on Elm Street in Sisters regarding a burglary. The caller had told deputies that he had come home and found a homeless man sleeping in his bed. The man had left when he was confronted, but he had also taken items from the house, Bailey said.

Deputies found the man, 34-year-old Thomas Bauer, in a public bathroom in Village Green Park. Bauer was identified as the suspect who had broken into the house and deputies recovered the stolen property from Bauer’s pockets, Bailey said.

Bauer was arrested on charges of burglary and theft.


DCSO looking for owner of horse abandoned near Sisters

Someone apparently tied a malnourished horse to a tree near Sisters and abandoned it, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

They’re now looking for the owners.

The horse was found on April 23rd in the area of Peterson Ridge Road and Trout Lane between Bend and Sisters.

The agency has named her “Silver Moon” and she is currently being cared for at the Sheriff’s Office Rescue Ranch in Bend.

Anyone with information about this horse is asked to call non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911, reference 20-75017.

Local option tax passes in BBR; Levy denied for La Pine Parks & Rec

Voters in Black Butte Ranch have approved a local option tax to maintain its current level of police services.

The tax will be $.65 per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning someone with a $500,000 home will pay about $27 per month.

The levy was approved by more than 75% of the voters in BBR, a small resort community about 15 miles west of Sisters. It will generate about $2.4 million through 2024-2025.

About 75% of the budget is spent on payroll for the seven sworn officers and one administrator on staff.

The new levy will replace the current, expiring levy voters approved 10 years ago and renewed in 2015.

Meanwhile, in La Pine voters rejected a local option levy to help fund the Park & Recreation District.

The measure would have cost about $54 per year for the average property owners with an assessed value (not market value) of $200,000.

Overall, it would have generated about $1.2 million over the next five years.

The District provides after-school, youth and adult programs to the greater La Pine Community. It also operates and maintains the La Pine Community Center, Heritage Park, the Finley Butte Ball Fields and community meeting room, Rosland Campground and Day Use river area, and Leona Park with river access.

The district said in the voters’ pamphlet that if the levy fails, program fees would increase and some programs would be eliminated. Additionally, the backlog of some deferred maintenance projects would not be addressed.


Bentz wins GOP’s 2nd District primary; Dems race too close to call

(AP) – Former state Sen. Cliff Bentz has won the Republican primary for state’s vast 2nd Congressional District covering eastern Oregon.

The GOP 2nd District race was one of the most closely-watched of Tuesday’s primary as the incumbent, Rep. Greg Walden, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, is not running for a 12th term.

Bentz beat out 2018 Republican Oregon gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler of Bend and former state legislator Jason Atkinson.

Four Democrats sought their party’s nomination and that contest is still too close to call.

Alex Spenser, a writer from Klamath Falls had a lead of less than 1,000 votes late Tuesday night over Nik Heuertz, a small business owner from Central Point.

Bentz will have the advantage in the November election in the predominantly Republican part of the state.

“The primary message tonight is that I’m running for this office to make our state a better place,” Bentz said. “Greg Walden has been a very close friend for a very long time and it’s going to be great to work with him and try the impossible job of trying to follow in his footsteps.”

Cliff BentzWalden on Tuesday night issued a statement, congratulating Benz.

“As a rancher from Eastern Oregon, I know that he understands the needs and challenges of our rural communities better than most,” Walden said. “Beyond the ranch, his experience as a lawyer as well as a state legislator showcase his ability to navigate policy and politics.”

Buehler, a Bend surgeon, announced he was running for Congress in December, saying “we need less politics and more conservative leadership in Congress.”

He declined comment following the first wave of results from the Secretary of State’s office, but he issue a tweet conceding to Bentz.

“I called to congratulate @CliffBentz on his victory. Cliff is a good man and a strong legislator. His deep roots in CD2 will serve us all well in Congress,” Buehler said. “I strongly endorse Cliff and encourage Republicans to rally behind him. Congrats to Cliff, his family and his supporters”

Buehler served two terms representing District 54 in the Oregon House, winning elections in 2014 and 2016. He lost his gubernatorial bid to Democrat Kate Brown in 2018.

He was also the Republican nominee for Secretary of State in 2012, also losing to Brown.

Phil more years: Chang vs. Henderson for Deschutes Co. commissioner


We know one thing for certain heading into the Deschutes County Commissioners Position 2 race in November: Phil will win.

Phil Chang was winning a decisive Democratic primary race on Tuesday and will square off against incumbent Republican Phil Henderson.

Chang, a former staffer for U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, received more than 84% of the votes. He was well ahead of Greg Bryant, a retired Vietnam Vet and volunteer with the Bend Transportation Advisory Committee.

Henderson, who was elected in 2016, ran unopposed in the primary.

His seat was the only seat up for grabs this year. The three county commissioners serve four-year terms and oversee county-wide policies.

Tony DeBone and Patti Adair hold the other two seats.

Chang has been a Central Oregonian for 16 years and is an employee of the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Chang said Tuesday night the COVID crisis has shined a light on the importance of county government and its widespread role in keeping the community safe and the economy rolling.

But over the next few months, other issues will return to the forefront.

My message when I started this campaign is that Deschutes County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation and we need to grow well by improving housing affordability, reducing traffic congestion, catch up with infrastructure and preserve open space and habitat,” he said. “I think those are the issues Deschutes County voters care about.”

Henderson has not yet returned a call for comment.

You can see how the two stack up against each other on the issues from their Deschutes County Voters’ Pamphlet entries below:





▶️ Ballots still trickling in as drop-off deadline nears


Local ballot returns for tomorrow’s primary election are running a little behind average and there are a host of factors at play.

Normally the ballot count takes place in just one office, the county clerk’s office. But this year, due to social distancing requirements, the Deschutes County Clerk’s Office is counting ballots with fewer staff and spreading staff out through three offices.

“We have less people working, so that means the process is going to go slower,” said Nancy Blankenship, Deschutes County Clerk.

How much slower is conjecture at this point.

Blankenship thinks final results might not be available until a day after the election for some races.

“If you’d gotten your ballot in early, we could have processed it and got it out with the first 8 o’clock results or the next set of results,” she said.

Election workers are already opening the mail-in ballots that have been received, verifying voters’ signatures and scanning the ballots for accuracy to prepare for the actual count which begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

Voters have until 8 Tuesday night to place their ballots in drop boxes.

As of this morning, about 31% of registered voters in Deschutes County had returned their ballots.

Crook County reported a 33% ballot return rate.

Jefferson county ballot returns were just shy of 30%.

Overall ballot return rates are off a few percentage points from the 2016 primary election.

“Unless they are all waiting until the last minute. This is one of those things, kind of uncharted waters. We don’t know what voter behavior is going to be,” Blankenship said.

It’s too late to mail your mail-in ballots to be counted in tomorrow’s election. So now you’ve got to take them to ballot drop off locations.

Check with your county clerk’s office to find those locations and drop them off by 8 tomorrow night.