36th Annual Oatmeal Festival promises zany entertainment

By DANA DELGADO

BERTRAM — With Labor Day weekend just over a week away, not much has been amiss on the quiet streets of Bertram except for some painters doing some touch-up work in preparation for the Oatmeal Festival.

The streets may be quiet now in Bertram and Oatmeal, but come Labor Day weekend the craziness and fun called the Oatmeal Festival rolls in for visitors to enjoy the celebration of small town pride and friendliness. From trains to planes to trail rides and Grand Parades, the 36th Annual Festival commands a visit.

Festival coordinators, directors and volunteers have been busily making final preparations for their annual extravaganza in what is turning out to be a major leadership shift.

“The younger generation (30’s – 40’s) has stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and their energy is overwhelming,” said Marcie Masterson, new Director and spokesperson for Director Carolyn Cross who is stepping down this year after years of leadership roles with the festival.

“Most of these (new directors) were raised in the area, so they have been attending the fests since they were little children. Many of them remember some of the really fun and crazy antics of the first festivals years ago, so I expect them to resurrect some of those starting next year. About 80 percent of our board is new this year, so they are getting a feel for what needs to be done, and I think they will have it down pat and be able to make some great changes next year, and at the same time make this year’s festival special.”

This year’s directors are David Giles, Carolyn Cross, Allen Rodgers, Tice and Bonnie Porterfield, Brandie Pogue, Esther McMillan, Evan Milliorn, Fidelia Salinas, Janet Habermehl, Kayla Allen, Rachel Shaw, April Baladez, Amanda Walker and Ms. Masterson.  Their presence is already evident in some activity changes including the inclusion of more children’s activities in the arts and crafts area, the resurgence of the adult softball tournament and the return of the Saturday BBQ at the Pavilion. Otherwise the festival remains essentially the same.

That sameness with a few tweaks has been the recipe for success now 36 years running.

The Festival gets an early start this Saturday, August 24, at 9 a.m. with a co-ed Softball Tournament at the Little League Field in Bertram.

Officially, the Oatmeal Festival kicks off their 36th annual celebration with a barbecue at the historic Community Center grounds in Oatmeal where a unique showcase of arts and crafts will be available for sale.

“We will have pictures on tin, paintings, purses, and all kinds of other crafts,” said Darnel Morris, an Oatmeal native and Bertram High School graduate who presently owns a daycare in Bertram and has been president of the Festival for six years.

On Saturday, August 31, a morning trail ride comprised of wagons, donkeys and horses departs at 7:33 a.m. from Oatmeal.  The group of 30-50 participants travels the three plus miles to nearby Bertram and ushers in a full slate of activities in Bertram.

Saturday festivities include a 3K family fun “Run for the Oats,” a Pet Parade, and a Grand Parade, Zany Games like oatmeal box stacking and cow chip kick, a Bertram School Homecoming, a concert and dance.

And this is one festival that organizers never mind if it rains on their parade; especially, if the rain is in the form of oats free-falling on an aerial flyover over historic downtown Bertram. This drop has become one of the festival’s signature events.

All proceeds from the festival go to support next year’s event but mostly to award scholarships to graduating seniors. Students who have assisted with festivals through the years earn points and become eligible to apply.

The 2012-13 scholarship winners were Nadeline Pierce, Roman Castillo, III, Kendra Zae Klose, Haley Porterfield, T.C Porterfield and Jordan Brown.

A complete schedule of activities, times and sites is available online at www.Oatmealfestival.com.

The genius of developing a festival around oats as a parody of its namesake Oatmeal is attributed to Oatmeal resident Ken Odiorne who reportedly dreamt-up the idea. With a little encouragement, Odiorne fired off letters to all the major producers of oatmeal cereal seeking support for a community festival.  Of the many companies, only National Oats, the makers of 3-Minute Oats, offered support and has remained a loyal sponsor for nearly four decades.

The festival idea became a rallying cause for Oatmeal residents who had been offended by the state when their quaint, rural community was omitted from official Texas maps some 37  years ago. The Governor proclaimed a special day of recognition for the community of Oatmeal when residents complained. Located on Farm Road 243, Oatmeal not only continues its rightful place on Texas maps again but shares its notoriety with their neighbors in Bertram and proudly rejoice with an annual celebration of fun and fanfare.

While Oatmeal’s location or recognition is no longer an issue, its namesake remains unclear.  According to archives of the Texas Historical Association, the town name is believed to have derived from either an alteration of the name of a Mr. Othneil, who owned the first gristmill in the area, or a possible translation of the name Habermill an early German family who settled in the area in 1849.  (Haber is a German dialect word for Hafer, “oats”). An Oatmeal post office was established in 1853, and the first schoolhouse was built in 1858.  Oatmeal is the second oldest town in Burnet County.