It seems like magic - more than a thousand quilts suddenly appearing on the buildings of downtown Sisters in an explosion of creativity and color on the second Saturday of July.
And it is a kind of magic - but it involves a whole lot more than the waving of a wand. It's the coming together of hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of quilters and a whole lot of organization and effort.
Last week the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (SOQS) event office - located this year at Earthwood Homes in the Sisters Industrial Park - was stacked high with a portion of what will be a record 1,497 quilts, which a cadre of volunteers will hang early on the morning of July 8.
Volunteers must sort, catalogue and assign a space for each quilt. That process used to be conducted entirely with paper and pencil, but now is made considerably less arduous by use of a computerized bar code system developed by former executive director Ann Richardson and computer expert Gary Miller.
"It's so elegant," SOQS Executive Director Jeanette Pilak told The Nugget. "Gary Miller and Ann's brains are this system."
Pilak noted that a lot of work goes into assigning space for each quilt, based on the dimensions and color scheme of each Sisters building - all with the goal of showing off the quilts in the best possible light. It's not done willy-nilly, which is something that is sometimes hard to communicate to quilters.
"Every year we have people who show up on Quilt Show day with their quilt and say, 'where do I hang this?'" Pilak said.
Pilak noted that when she takes show sponsors like fabric manufacturers around town for a tour, "they are just gobsmacked (by) how all the quilts go together. They're not just thrown up."
Pilak estimates that it takes three full eight-hour days to sort and assign the quilts. Part of the effort involves bringing in new volunteers to learn the ropes, because, as Pilak notes, it's critical to retain and pass on knowledge of the system and protocol to younger volunteers who will carry the SOQS into the future.
On Friday, 93-year-old Virginia Bradley brought in her quilts for registration - just as she has done every year since 1976.
"All of Virginia's quilts are done by hand," Pilak noted.
"I grew up quilting and I never quit," Bradley said. "Quilting is my life, really. It's an expression of my heart. It's an expression of love for material and love for the finished product. There's a quilt on every bed at home."
That kind of passion is common among quilters, and is reflected in this year's show theme - "Every Quilt Has A Story."
Many quilts are composed of physical manifestations of memory - such as the shirts of a father who has recently died.
All will be on vivid display across Sisters on July 8, starting at 9 a.m.