A local casualty of the current global coronavirus pandemic is the 23rd annual Quilts in the Garden tour sponsored by the Sisters Garden Club (SGC). Usually held the Thursday of Quilt Show Week, this year the board of directors for the garden club have decided to err on the side of caution by canceling the tour that was scheduled for July 9.

According to Ruth Palmer, communications chairperson for the SGC, the board issued a statement explaining the rationale for this year’s cancellation:

“Because of the gravity of this COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of the length of our ‘Stay at Home’ orders, our Quilts in the Garden Tour for 2020 has been canceled. It concerns us that the arrival of hundreds, even thousands, of out-of-town guests would have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of our entire community. Our desire is to set a responsible example and err on the side of extreme caution. As soon as the way forward from this difficult period becomes clear, we will be able to begin planning for the 2021 Quilts in the Garden Tour.”

Last year, the tour was an unparalleled success with 887 tickets sold, 300 more than in 2018. In 2016, 450 tickets were sold, netting about $5,000. The tour is the single annual fundraiser for the SGC. The proceeds from ticket sales provide the funds to fulfill the club’s goals and objectives including funding and supporting civic garden projects as well as assisting organizations focused on sustainability of trees, plant, birds, and pollinators.

In its 32-year history, the SGC has made invaluable contributions to the community through their labors, their knowledge, and their generous financial support, all of which have helped beautify our town while enhancing our natural surroundings and educating our children about the importance of the natural world.

The garden tour was the brainchild of Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show founder Jean Wells Keenan in 1998, when she approached the garden club about offering garden tours to the participants enrolled in her Quilters’ Affair classes during Quilt Show Week. Thus, was born the original Annual Quilt Show Garden Tour. That initial effort raised $4,000 for the garden club which promptly returned it to the community.

From that day to this, the money raised by the tour has gone to support fulfilling grant requests from local nonprofits and schools that are focused on gardening and the natural world. Money has been given in support of the Sisters Elementary School Garden Club and greenhouse, middle and high school greenhouses and garden programs, Sisters Community Garden, Sisters Library landscaping, City parks, Deschutes Land Trust, Camp Caldera, Sisters Rotary Club, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council for work with Sisters students, Barclay Memorial Park, Central Oregon Veterans Ranch, and Seed-to-Table.

The tour provides a diversion from classes and an opportunity for visitors and locals alike to experience the homes and gardens in the Sisters area, while admiring more quilts belonging to the garden club members and the homeowners. Wells Keenan was made a Lifetime Member of the garden club in appreciation of her help and encouragement with the tour. Her own garden has been part of the tour several times.

Homes were added to the tour starting in 2000. Since then, other features have been incorporated such as raffles for quilts and the sale of yard art by local artists. An additional stop on the tour has been at the Sisters Community Garden where lunches prepared by garden members have been available for purchase to help fundraising for the garden. A three-salad lunch has included homemade bread or rolls and desserts. Visitors are invited to eat in the garden while enjoying the view of the mountains and the quilts hanging on the garden fence. Last year, 195 lunches were gone in an hour-and-a-half.

With no garden tour this year, the community garden will not be offering their lunch.