Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) is packing up its big tents and moving to October.

The Festival has announced a permanent move away from the traditional festival weekend that could begin as early as 2021 — if the pandemic is controlled enough to allow the event to take place safely.

Sisters Folk Festival produced a COVID-safe Close To Home concert at their outdoor backyard venue in early August of 2020. Seating was sold in pods of two to four people, with ample spacing in between, and mask use was required. Since SFF had to be postponed last year because of COVID, staff built on that successful concert model and planned to host a weekend of socially distanced performances over the normal festival weekend, September 11-13. Ultimately, those concerts were canceled at the last moment due to the unhealthy air quality blanketing the entire state of Oregon and beyond on the morning of September 11.

“It was chilling to think that, had the Sisters Folk Festival not been postponed due to the pandemic, we would have been looking at our second festival cancellation due to wildfire smoke in four years,” said SFF Executive Director Crista Munro. “It was clear to the board and staff that difficult decisions had to be made for the long-term survival of the festival.”

The organization is hopeful that this date change will put SFF outside of the wildfire smoke season, and they are cautiously optimistic that having a festival will be possible this year, amid COVID-19 concerns.

If the event is able to take place, the new dates for the 2021 Sisters Folk Festival will be October 1-3. Staff are continuing to monitor all Centers for Disease Control and Oregon Health Authority guidelines around public events and will make a firm decision about the 2021 festival in the spring, as the vaccine rollout progresses. Festival tickets will not be released until there is a greater likelihood that the event could happen.

Currently, SFF is working closely with City of Sisters as the City finalizes the municipal-code changes necessary to formally cement the October date change.

Sisters Folk Festival is planning a series of outdoor, in-person summer concerts at Sisters Art Works featuring regional and nationally touring performers, and will be announcing the dates and lineup in the coming months. The concerts will be modeled after the Close To Home performance that took place in 2020 amid the pandemic.

For information about ongoing SFF programming, visit www.sistersfolkfestival.org.