Jeri Buckmann has a long and storied history with the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce — what she calls “a life of memories.”
photo by Jim Cornelius
Jeri Buckmann has a long and storied history with the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce — what she calls “a life of memories.” photo by Jim Cornelius
As Labor Day rolls around to celebrate those whose work builds our country and communities, Jeri Buckmann is marking two decades of putting Sisters on the map.

Buckmann has been a fixture at the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce for 20 years — years in which Sisters and the Chamber both have changed dramatically.

Like so many folks who now call Sisters home, Buckmann and her husband, Bob, who were living in Grafton, Oregon, started out as visitors.

“We’d visited here a few times and we always called the Chamber for what to do,” she recalled.

Again, like many others, the quality and intimacy of the local schools offered a strong incentive to relocate. The Buckmanns moved here and enrolled Adam and Sara in Sisters schools.

Jeri almost immediately called the Chamber and offered to volunteer.

“A few months later, the events coordinator position came open and they said, ‘Would you like to do this?’” she recalled. “I said sure. I had no experience other than organizing kids’ parties.”

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce was a major player in creating and managing the events that helped establish the community as a destination and a hub of arts and entertainment. At various times, the Chamber hosted an antique fair, Saturday markets, a car show, a Western and Native American Arts Festival and its signature event, the Sisters Harvest Faire.

In those early days, Bend and Redmond were not heavily involved in presenting events.

“Sisters was the only one that did anything,” Buckmann said. “It’s kind of what drew people to town.”

And Buckmann was working almost constantly to keep the events going. She enlisted Bob’s help, and her kids went around town with promotional posters.

“It was kind of an education, too, that they got,” she said of Adam and Sara’s endeavors.

Over time, other non-profits and business entities began to promote events, and the Chamber stepped back from being an event promotor and into a more traditional role of promoting the community as a whole statewide.

“We have so many options to give people when they come here to visit,” Buckmann said. “We can focus more on bringing people here.”

The Chamber still has a couple of events that Buckmann still loves. The Harvest Faire is marking its 40th year this October. And the Chamber leads the Christmas holiday festivities with its promotion of A Cowboy Christmas and “the Town of Tiny Lights” theme.

Christmas festivities center around the annual parade and the tree lighting now at Fir Street Park.

Buckmann recalled the first tree lighting in 2000, at the Chambers’ then-headquarters where Circle of Friends resides now.

“We had a fire ring and we had a burn barrel,” she said. “Bob Grooney was the master of ceremonies and he flipped the switch. I think we had like 30 people.”

These days, the tree lighting draws hundreds to the park in what has become a family tradition for several generations of Sisters folks and visitors alike.

Buckmann continues to manage the Chamber’s events, including membership events, and also operates the Visitor Center and manages membership.

Buckmann said she never would have anticipated spending 20 years at the Chamber — but the time has flown by quickly. The Chamber has undergone leadership changes, some of them pretty bumpy, but Buckmann has weathered them all. She says that she works particularly well with current Chamber Director Judy Trego.

“It’s a great partnership, Judy and I,” she said. “It really is.”

Buckmann cites as a highlight of the work the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people from all over the world.

“It’s a life of memories,” she said. “I mean, it’s awesome! I would never have guessed I would become so attached to it.”

While 20 years is certainly a milestone, it doesn’t signify much in the way of a watershed moment in Buckmann’s career. She’s planning to stick around through the changes she knows are coming with increased growth in the region.

“I’m curious as to what the next few years will be as far as the growth,” she said. “I never thought of it back then — what it would be like.

“I’m going to keep with it for a while.”