SISTERS, Ore. - (Update: Adds comments from festival official, businessman)
The Sisters Folk Festival scheduled Friday through Sunday of this weekend has been canceled due to the continued wildfire smoke and health issues, officials announced Wednesday.
Brad Tisdel, the festival's creative director, said it was a tough decision for organizers to make.
“And what we determined is that we would be putting people’s health at risk," Tisdel said. "It’s not one fire, it’s multiple fires, it’s more smoke then fire, and we felt like at this time it’s the best course of action.”
The decision was made after organizers discussed moving the event indoors or to an entirely different community.
In the end, they determined they wanted to keep the integrity of the event intact.
“We considered moving it even outside of the community, and it’s not the Sisters Folk Festival," Tisdel said. "We want to keep the integrity of the event, the experience, as well as the respect that we have in the artist community of what's the right thing to do."
Many local businesses who sponsor the event said this is a big weekend for them.
Melvin Herburger, owner of Melvin's Fir Street Market, said this is the biggest weekend for his store, but he agrees with organizers that changing venues would ruin the atmosphere of the festival.
“It’s unique, and that’s what brings the people here," Herburger said. "If they change it up, even for this year, and move it indoors or try to move it indoors, I think it’ll lose its feel.”
Organizers said they will be back stronger than ever next year.
Here's the full announcement posted to Facebook Wednesday afternoon:
"It is with profound regret that the Board of Directors of the Sisters Folk Festival announces that the September 8 – 10 event has been cancelled due to extremely poor air quality conditions in Central Oregon.
"After days of intensive consultation with fire managers, meteorologists and health professionals, we have determined that we cannot move forward with the festival without severely compromising the quality of the experience for our artists and our patrons. The well-being of our patrons, artists and volunteers is of paramount concern for the Sisters Folk Festival organization.
"Predicted weather and smoke forecasts through the weekend do not allow us to stage the event with confidence that their well-being and the quality of experience you all have come to expect and appreciate can be delivered.
"The Festival attempted to establish contingencies and alternatives at the Sisters Schools. Unfortunately, given that the schools were forced to close this week due to smoke conditions, we could not confidently establish that the air quality even indoors will be adequate.
"This is an unprecedented event in the 22-year history of the Sisters Folk Festival and this decision was made with heavy hearts, fully mindful of the multitude of personal, civic and economic ramifications cancellation will have for everyone connected to our Festival community.
"It will take a week or more for the Festival to assess our financial commitments and the impact this cancellation will have upon the Festival and community. Further information on our next steps will be provided as soon as it becomes available. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate through this difficult and unprecedented event."
Recently, Cycle Oregon also canceled its planned ride through the High Desert due to the smoke from several wildfires, also a first for that event.