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  • Writer's pictureBill Bartlett

Sisters grows on you

By Bill Bartlett



Rural chic. Best of the West. Sisters goes by many descriptions. The town has grown from Pop. 679 in 1990 to 959 in 2000 to 2,038 just 10 years later. Now sitting officially at 3,286 as of 2023, Sisters has not lost its small-town charm — but it has endured some growing pains.


There are still no electric traffic lights, and you can get from one corner of town to the other in under five minutes, three on a good day. Sisters acts bigger with its outsize festivals, upscale shops and services, eclectic cuisine from Himalayan to Nashville-style fried chicken, and a vibrant arts community not often found in cities four or five times its size.


Culturally it runs the gamut. There’s the Sisters Rodeo now in its 83rd year that is the official start to summer. About as Wild West as it gets, with an accompanying parade. Summer ends with the Sisters Folk Festival hosting a dozen-plus acts from the top tier of bluegrass, Americana, Nashville, Tejano, blues and Cajun.


The infrastructure of Sisters is rock solid, with abundant artesian water, plenty of electric, and a grid of bike trails and unobstructed walking paths. The lights are low, intentionally. This is a Dark Sky community. And a Tree City USA town. Sisters regularly shows up on Best Places to Live or Visit lists.


At only 1.88 square miles, not much big bigger than New York’s Central Park, Sisters will probably top out at 4,000 as few buildable lots remain. There is no appetite among inhabitants to expand the urban growth boundary.


Sisters is a model for live-work situations, which have attracted a range of entrepreneurs who live upstairs over their restaurant, studio, gallery, or shop. As the housing frenzy has cooled a bit, Sisters is in the midst of a commercial renaissance, with over 125,000 square feet of rentable space completing or breaking ground in 2023.


Our schools are one of the biggest drivers of younger, tech-savvy workers looking to get out of hectic city living. Sisters High School is ranked No. 1 in Deschutes County by US News & World Report. The school district boasts CTE programs in flight science, guitar building, CAD, software coding, and construction.


There are roughly 1,600 housing units, with another 350 under construction or planned. Eighty-four percent are single unit; 77 percent are owner occupied. Sisters is home to approximately 520 seasonal residents.


The city is served by a seven-member Planning Commission and a full-time Community Development Department.

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