Friday, July 18, 2008

Dance with the one who brought you

The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has grown over more than two decades into an international event, one that has put Sisters on the map. The event provides a massive shot in the arm to Sisters’ economy every summer.

For many merchants, it is the single most lucrative day of the year. It’s no stretch to say that the show and the week leading up to it keep many businesses afloat in Sisters’ seasonal economy.

Trouble is, it’s been going on for so long with such success that many people who should know better take it for granted.
Visitors comment on buildings that are bare of quilts and wonder whether there are fewer quilts this year, if perhaps the show is diminishing. In fact, the only reason a building is bare during quilt show is because the building owner or a business proprietor doesn’t want quilts on the building.

Why would anyone not want quilts on their building? Maybe the show doesn’t directly boost their particular business. Maybe they want quilt show visitors to see their window displays.

Such thinking is shortsighted and selfish. Everybody in Sisters benefits from the quilt show (and other Sisters events) because they make Sisters’ name and reputation — the reputation that brings visitors year-round and provides the lifeblood of what remains and will probably always remain a tourist-based economy.

Some merchants make money by hosting vendors. But if those vendors detract from the show, they are ultimately harming the entity that gives them the opportunity to make their year in a day. Again, selfish and shortsighted.

Some quilters don’t like the rules of the show and set up on their own in unsanctioned displays. Big deal, right? Well, yeah, it is.

The quilt show works hard to maintain the character and quality of the display, which is uniquely based on celebration rather than commerce. The commercial benefits are incidental and accrue mostly to the established merchants of downtown Sisters.

Drafting on the commercial benefits the show brings to Sisters without giving back is freeloading. It’s rude and unseemly behavior. Merchants and quilters alike should dance with the one that brought them. Heck, they’re the ones who put on the dance.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. This blog brought to you by the Sisters Quilt Show and the fine folks at The Stitchin Post.

  2. Nice Blog! Sisters is one of the many attractions to Oregon and a reason people buy Sisters and Bend Oregon real estate.

  3. Jim: It would be so easy for me to vent my frustration in response and provide my personal viewpoint on the subject of the SOQS, vendors and business and property owners (some naive) renting to vendors. But I won't.

    Instead I'll try to avoid the frustration and write a comment to your fair and insightful post. If I could title my comment I would title it: Don't bite the hand that feeds you. But I won't. Rather, I would title my comment as: What if the SOQS organizers decided not to throw a party in 2009?

    I'm not suggesting that a party won't happen in 2009. I'm only asking a very pointed question so that we can all think about what we would do in the last weeks of June and the first two weeks of July if there was no party to plan and attend. Would the balance of the year be different if there was no party?

    I will try not to vent my frustrations because no matter what I say there will be people that will defend their right to sell their corner of their lot to a vendor. The fact is that the vendors have every right to sell their wares on the “streets of Sisters” assuming they pay the City of Sisters $100 per day, get a permit, stay off public right-of-way and get a sponsoring business and property owner's approval. The issue isn't the vendors. Don't shoot the vendor. The problem is the local business and property owners that sell out to make a quick buck. Some property owners are naive – many are not. I won't vent my frustration at the vendors because it's not their issue. To call business and property owners that allow vendors to set up shop “money grubbers” might indicate that I was venting my frustration. I won't vent my frustration at money grubbing opportunists.

    I won't vent my frustration until I better understand why any local business would sell a corner of their lot to a vendor only to clutter their own storefront and compete for the dollar of each visitor. Why would a local business sell out to a vendor when they could simply concentrate on their own business, sell their own inventory, give to the SOQS and be part of the party. I'm not sure what it will take for me to understand why the local business sells out to vendors and bites the hand that feeds them. I just don't get it.

    Most local businesses support the SOQS. As a fellow business, merchant, and sponsor -- thank you! Your support allows the quilt show to be successful, cover costs and allows for the community to prosper year-round. Some local businesses don't sponsor the SOQS. Some local businesses don't allow quilts to hang from their storefronts. Some local business sell their corner lot, non public sidewalk, or grassy area to vendors and most often to out of area vendors. Some local businesses sell their corner to vendors that sell product that are not even quilt show related. Do some merchants in town want a “Quilt Show” or a “Crap Show” and a quick buck? What if the SOQS organizers decided not to throw a party in 2009?

    The SOQS is responsible for over $2,000,000 (some say more than $3.0M) in direct and indirect infusion of money to Central Oregon. Sponsorship in the SOQS should be a high priority for area businesses. For those merchants that can financial support the SOQS but don't -- I just don't get it. Our business prospers due to the SOQS and our revenues far exceed our sponsorship contributions. What would the Sisters area merchants, hotels and restaurants in Bend/Redmond/Sisters say if the Organizers of the SOQS decided not to throw a party in 2009?

    Some of the merchants in town believe that the SOQS event is an entitlement and they will profit from it while giving very little if any back. There are many businesses in town that sponsor the quilt show and through their sponsorship provide money that helps pay for support services, advertising, road closures, security, and all the many behind the scene activities. I often wonder if members of the community realize what it takes to throw an 8 day party for 20,000 plus people. I won't vent my frustration because the organizers of the SOQS and the hundreds of volunteers that support the SOQS deserve better. The volunteers help out with their time, energy, money, services, and in-kind product and services that are needed to pull off the largest party of the year in Sisters. When was the last time you invited 20,000 plus people to your home for a party?

    I won't vent my frustration because I know that many local non profit groups depend on money they raise by volunteering and providing services during Quilt Show week. It has been reported that the 2008 donations by the SOQS has exceeded $20,000 and vast majority of the money donated goes to non-profit groups in Central Oregon. What if the organizers of the SOQS, a community partner, decided not to throw a party in 2009?

    I won't vent my frustration because most of the merchants in town have their best day, week and month of the year due in part to the SOQS. What if the organizers of the SOQS decided not to throw a party in 2009? Who would be crying more? The local merchant that sells out their corner lot to an out of area popcorn and trinket vendor or the local merchants that pays rent each and every month of the year including our wonderful winter months.

    What if the organizers of the SOQS decided not to throw a party in 2009? What would you do or say then? What will you do today to help with the 2009 party?

    Jim, I for one am thankful for the party and look forward to our participation in the 2009 party. You will most definitely see me dance with the one that brought me.

    Thanks for the ear.
    Todd Dow
    Sisters Oregon

  4. "Drafting on the commercial benefits the show brings to Sisters without giving back is freeloading."

    It's not "freeloading" it's called "free commercial enterprise" or "capitalism". This is not The Summer of Love, and this is not a socialist country (yet).

    Every business has the choice of doing what they want, and you should respect that. Is it the smart course to take for a local business? Possibly not, but it's their choice.

    That's why this is America, not Venezuela, China or Russia. We don't need the government or the media telling businesses what they should and should not do.

  5. Easycure:

    Just because someone can do something doesn't mean they should. We are bearing witness across the nation to the results of short-term thinking.

    Your equation of any form of restraint on "free commercial enterprise" with socialist tyranny suffers from an unsupportable ideological rigidity and is way off the mark.

    Are zoning laws socialist tyranny? Or do they actually enhance value for enterprise?

    No one is arguing that anyone should be forced to participate in anything. The argument is as simple as the principles that most of us learned in kindergarten: it's not right to reap the benefits if you're not contributing to the effort.

    That's not collectivism, that's cooperation.

    Jim Cornelius, Editor

  6. This is the land of the free...The Chamber of Commerce is doing it too! They are suppossed to be set up to help local businesses and they are selling vendor spaces also! Ironic perhaps...maybe we'll see a slushie stand in front of the nugget next year! Personally our family leaves town that weekend.

  7. Hi Anonymous (July 23, 2008 4:41 AM).
    I think if you check with the Chamber and the SOQS you may find that the two entities are working together and the QS and City have "blessed" the food court for many years. The food court is an area of concentrated vendors that are not next to quilts and not scattered around town. The food court vendors that you are speaking about are food vendors not trinket sales booths. The fact is that there is not enough restaurants capacity in town to "feed" 20,000 people on one day. The City, SOQS and the Chamber have worked together to provide a needed service and not take away from other businesses, including over capacity restaurants.

    I can't say the same for the other vendor types in town.

    Todd Dow
    Sisters Oregon

  8. One would think that the Quilt Show is the only event ever in town & that all the businesses are to get in line & toe said line & support financially an event that frankly, drives the locals "loco". I do own a retail business & I did allow the quilters to hang quilts in front of my windows but only because it did not interfere with the normal operations of my daily business. However, if it had blocked so much light as to make the interior of my shop a dark & uninviting cave, I would probably have to veto the window coverings next time. Same goes for blocking the entrance I NEED to have my business accessible EVERY day of the year, or my customers cannot shop and I might as well just be closed on "quilt show day" ~ so I would veto that next year, if that were the case. I choose not to be a "sponsor" ~ meaning there is no quilt inside my shop ~ I have so little space & none to spare, also it has not not proven to be a good place for my advertising dollars & we have had some very unpleasant experience being actually threatened(!) by the "quilt mafia volunteers" in years past! Imagine!
    I will give a huge thank you to the recent volunteers ~ they have been absolutely wonderful & a joy to have come by, even when they know you are not planning on being a financial supporter. So, one has to question the motive behind the "everyone must join in & pay up" mentality there, too, if you are going to question the motives of shopkeepers renting space to vendors. And, yes, I had vendors who asked very nicely to rent a small space outside & they have been doing this for several years, they are local folks who have a nice product that may or may not be "quilt-themed" as a matter of perspective.
    OK ~ so, lets talk apples to apples ... what IS a Farmers market ... by definition. I seem to recall this paper stating it was to be 70% produce (have you BEEN to the Sisters version of a local Farmers Market?) and 30% crafts & homemade items... HUH?
    This & the numerous craft fairs sponsored by the chamber of commerce bring plenty of outside vendors & competition to the artisans & local merchants, too, and on a WEEKLY or MONTHLY basis! I see a lot of the same things being sold at these fairs & markets as I see in many shops and at places like Richards Produce. Wow, but it doesn't hardly get noticed? Why is that, do you suppose? I try to buy local & to support my neighbors & fellow business owners.
    The hand that feeds me are the people who shop local every day & the tourists who come every day ~ not The Stitching Post & a one day event, not chamber of commerce who is more about their own growth than that of the business folks they are supposed to be there for. Not the residents who flee to Bend or Portland to do their weekly & even their Christmas shopping when there are SO MANY wonderful shops right in their own backyard! And a lot of them are small, family run businesses with unique products & artisans who do one of a kind work that make such incredible gifts. Many of the little shops are living on the edge & they could disappear altogether one day if we don't work hard to support them. Thanks for the place to vent...sorry to rant so long!
    Support your local small business.

  9. Jim, you are so misguided! Do you think that there would be a quilt show if there weren't any restaurants, hotels and certainly shopping?! How is the quilt show any different than any other outside event, ie, the Rodeo or many, many events at the park other than larger and more obnoxious and most monies made and kept by the Stitching Post? Please tell me what they do for the community. Your comments about 'not reaping benefits without giving back'... or close to it, makes no sense. Some of us like Sisters the way it used to be before you were here.

  10. I was a vendor at the last SOQS and I was welcomed by 99% of the kind folk of Sisters. Many of our inventory of quilts were too numerous, too large or too small to fit the "rules criteria" for the SOQS. We currently have about 4 quilters in our group. We have over almost 40 quilts total. Do the math. (The rules say "5 for sale quilts per exhibitor".)

    So, our little group opted in April of 2007 to ask a private business to host our display, graciously received permission, paid the fee to the city for the business license and excitedly set up our beautiful array of quilts to blow in the breeze on the day of quilt show. We had an awesome day and felt so welcomed by the lookers who stopped to chat about our quilts.

    Many do not realize that the SOQS does not have a level playing field for all of the for sale exhibitors. Not only does SOQS allow brokers to come to sell ANY quilt ANY size, and in ANY numbers, but SOQS endorses the brokers preferentially to keep them coming each year. The quilt brokers are not required to limit the size of the quilts they sell for another quilter and the quilt brokers are not required to limit the number of the quilts they sell for other quilters as do all of the rest of the REGULAR exhibitors. When we brought all of this to the attention to the exec direction last year, we were blown off with the "our rules" statement. "If we didn't like them, we didn't need to be a part of the show", we were told. THAT IS A QUOTE.

    We were encouraged to become a vendor if we were unhappy with the rules of the SOQS. So, we did.

    As well, because of the limitations for number of entries to the sale that day, many of my fellow quilters routinely assign their quilts to names of "their neighbor, their cousin, their auntie etc." because they have more quilts to sell than the show allows. (5 for sale quilts per person) This misrepresentation of the maker of the quilt is a standard practise from what my other quilting friends tell me.

    Take your blinders off, SOQS! Ask yourself why quilters are compelled to misrepresent themselves to be included in the show?

    The Stitching Post allowed vending to go on inside their doors according to the newspaper article about the gentleman who make quilting "charms". The statment would seem - OTHERS please, do not allow vending, but WE are sure going to allow it (inside their doors).

    I was verbally chastised by ONLY one person repeatedly that "this is NOT a quilt sale, it is a quilt SHOW". We were thanked by literally hundreds of folks who took photos of our quilts, who visited with us about the techniques used in our quilts and the beauty of our quilts. The two negative people were the real minority in their negativity.

    Ask yourself "if this is not a quilt SALE, then why does the show organizers solicit quilts to BE sold?" Seems someone is talking out of both sides of her mouth. Again. This is BOTH a quilt event and a quilt sale. We understand the financial aspect of the show, how much money it takes to put it on, etc. and do not want to minimize this.

    IF we had been exhibitors, we would have funded the event further as well. It was "the rules" thing again, I guess.....

    We were individualized for setting up as vendors to sell our quilts trying to "make money". Well, duh! We didn't see the Stitching Post closing their doors that day with a sign on the door proclaiming "closed to enjoy the beauty of the quilt show day".

    The Sisters Drug and Gift Store has hosted a guilt guild in their store for the sale and display of quilted items for over twenty years and none of those items meet the criteria for the rules of the SOQS. I applaude the Sisters Drug and Gift Store for their generosity in allowing that practise each year.

    Isn't the pie big enough in Sisters to share? Apparentely not for the ones who are already seated at the table.

    Wanda Barkhurst
    Terrebonne, Oregon

  11. Oh, good grief, when pigs fly, ……Sisters “isn’t NOT going to have a party in 2009 of another outdoor quilt show”!

    Someone who is a rational thinker, please chime in and help neutralize this issue. I am guessing by the blogs above, we have finally found the symbolic fellow who sits curbside at the edge of town, unshaven with a sign over his shoulder proclaiming “tomorrow the world ends” ….. He comes back and sits in the same place, day after day after day and his sign says the same dour thing – of impending doom and gloom day after day after day; “tomorrow the world ends”. And he makes sure he repeats that same message each day. TOWORROW and world ends.

    This “IF we don’t have a party next year” rhetoric is just another threat meant to cause more emotional upheaval. Of course, I realize we all granted an opinion here. I did have to chuckle at the fairy tale of “IF we don’t have another party in 2009” just the same. The writer fails to recognize that Quilt Show isn’t a private party; hasn’t been for many, many years. Therefore, he cannot expect the invitations to be limited to a private guest list. Quilt Show is a very public event.

    Seriously, here are the facts gleaned from the City of Sisters regarding the much exaggerated “vendors taking business from the merchants on Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show day”.

    Of the 22 licensed vendors, per the permits issued by the City of Sisters:
    9 licensed vendors were for selling quilt and/or sewn items;
    7 licensed vendors sold food or beverage and/or snack items;
    3 licensed vendors held local fundraisers and
    3 licensed vendors sold “retail sales for misc items”.

    Of the 22 vendors, 12 had central Oregon addresses and the majority of those listed Sisters addresses.

    I found it interesting that the gentleman vendor at the Stitching Post did not file for a license at all for his “charms”, nor did the quilt brokers who sold others’ quilts. Neither applied for a waiver of the business license fee either. Hmmmm, is someone invoking that “our rules” thing again!

    In talking to some of the other vendors, food vendors in particular, the food vendors do not want to be set up in the park in a food court by “the quilt show mafia”, as the vendors feel they do not have the same opportunity to sell as others do. “Seclusion” is the word one particular food vendor used. That is their opinion. I am the messenger! I did not use their terminology, but thought it was pretty amusing just the same.

    It is my opinion the vendors, regardless of where they hail from, whether it be near (in Sisters) or afar (Eugene or Portland) enhanced a wonderful day in the lovely town of Sisters, Oregon for all as well as put some money of their own back into the economy to boot. Hurray! Well done, City of Sisters and kind residents!

    Wanda Barkhurst
    Terrebonne, Oregon

  12. Hi Todd dow ..I can't help but wonder if you would think the "needed and blessed" by the chamber and SQS food court vendors are neccesary if you were in the local resturant business instead of the "art" business.Perhaps you need to actually VENT instead of suggesting that you are.

  13. Hi Anonymous (July 29, 2008 7:16 AM). Please identify yourself and I would be happy to respond to your comments.

    Todd Dow
    Sisters Oregon

  14. Hi Wanda: Thank you for your comments and thank you so very much for elevating my status in the community. I've been called many things, some even true, but never a “symbolic fellow who sits curbside at the edge of town, unshaven with a sign over his shoulder proclaiming “tomorrow the world ends” .” I guess you missed my attempt at a metaphor to Jim's blog title: “Dance with the one that brought you.” Most Parties that I've attended have a bit of dancing as a one of the activities. Sorry you missed the metaphor.

    I guess you also missed the following paragraph in my original post: “I'm not suggesting that a party won't happen in 2009. I'm only asking a very pointed question so that we can all think about what we would do in the last weeks of June and the first two weeks of July if there was no party to plan and attend. Would the balance of the year be different if there was no party? “

    It might be suggested that the reason 99% of the good folks in Sisters on QS day gave you a positive response is that QS visitors are great people and for the most part they don't know the difference from quilts IN the show and those offered by Vendors. Thanks for reporting you had an “awesome day.” Hopefully you provided a donation to the non-profit organization that sponsors the SOQS, pays all the media cost, hires staff, pays all the city and ODOT fees, pays for the flaggers and recruits and works with the hundreds of volunteers among many more cost associated with the show.

    Please keep me in the loop and advise us when the City of Sisters can regulate how businesses sell legal, ethical and moral products or services inside their store. It will be a sad day when the City of Sisters tells businesses how and what they sell INSIDE their stores. Wanda, your argument doesn't pass the smell test nor does your argument on Quilt Show vs Quilt Sale. The QS has long had a sales component but until just recently has the QS seen a growth of outside vendors. Again the drug store has every right to sell products inside their store. BTW, they also financially support and sponsor the SOQS. They give back!

    Sharing the pie is important but not at the loss of honoring the quality and history of the SOQS. There is room for many as long as integrity of the QS is minatained. In my opinion, if the integrity isn't maintained then the community runs the risk of having the show impacted negatively and may fallout of favor. BTW. thanks for contacting the City for their record of permits. Do keep in mind that some permits might cover more than one product type. There is no requirement under the city application to identify the number of “tents/spaces” per permit and in theory more than one product type including quilt and not quilt related items might be sold by “one vendor.” So by your figures (Of the 22 vendors, 12 had central Oregon addresses and the majority of those listed Sisters addresses) 27% of the vendors are from Sisters! Did this include the fund raising options of some non-profit kids organizations?

    Yes, the SOQS is a free and open to the public event, however it is hosted by the SOQS, a not-for-profit business that organizes, makes and administers the “rules,” manages and takes the day-to-day operatioins very seriously. Without the host there would be no party. -- Oops there goes the metaphor again. Promise not to use it again.

    It's my understanding that the food vendors are requested to be in one area so as not to have food and smoke next to quilts. Do you want Kettle Corn or Pork BBQ smoke next to your quilts? I will agree that if there is a need for more food vendors then maybe more than one group location might make sense. But let's not increase the food vendors quantity unless there is a need and surely not at the expense of our locally owned restaurants, deli's and coffee houses. It was interesting that one building owner and merchant allowed a food vendor to set up on cascade avenue in a drive way next to a locally owned deli. The merchant in question is not a QS sponsor. Interesting connection.

    I restate a prior comment of mine: I often wonder if members of the community realize what it takes to throw an 8 day party for 20,000 plus people. We can often take for granted those things that are given to us and especially those that require little effort on our parts. The 8 day SOQS just happens and for the most part happens with very little negative impact to a community and on the upside brings in notoriety, a sense of community, much needed influx of revenue that extends way past the 8 days and most importantly a world wide attention to our community. Like that of the Sisters Rodeo, Folk Festival and other well run and managed events. Do you think your vendor experience at this years SOQS day would have been as “awesome” without 33 prior years of shows?

    Let me know if you wish to dance and thanks for the ear!

    Todd Dow
    Sisters Oregon

  15. You sure have alot of time to write!

  16. Just for clarification, it is important that the community be aware that the Sisters Chamber of Commerce produces six (6) Sister's events as requested by the community. The events are: Sisters Summer Faire (July)-Handcrafted arts and crafts, food court; Sisters Summer Faire (August)-Handcrafted arts and crafts, food court; Sisters Bead Stampede (August)-Handmade Beads, no food; Sisters Antique Faire (August)-Antiques and Collectibles, food court; Sisters Western and Native Arts Festival (August)-Handmade Native American goods, food court; Sisters Harvest Faire (October)-Handcrafted arts, crafts, clothing and furniture.
    Vendors must comply with the following regulations:"Only the Artists' original work may be shown. No work is allowed that has been totally prepared with commercial patterns, molds, kits, etc. No commercial or imported goods. Artists themselves must be present, and 85% or more of each item must be handmade or grown by the vendor." Sisters is a great place and a town with lots of "personality." And let's support our local businesses every way possible.
    Kathy Eby
    Chamber Member

  17. Thank you so much Wanda for speaking up for those of us that feel we must be anonymous. I agree with Jim that is sad when you don't feel free to speak your mind. Just know that you are in the majority, and your honesty is refreshing.