37th Annual Oatmeal Festival draws crowds to Bertram

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Mark Sutherberg ate four bowls of oatmeal in one minute -- taking home the championship medal at the 37th Annual Oatmeal Festival's Oatmeal Eating Contest. (Sean Shapiro Photo)

Mark Sutherberg ate four bowls of oatmeal in one minute — taking home the championship medal at the 37th Annual Oatmeal Festival’s Oatmeal Eating Contest. (Sean Shapiro Photo)

By SEAN SHAPIRO

BERTRAM – Mark Sutherberg knows exactly how he likes his oatmeal. Instead of adding sugar or other fixings, Sutherberg prefers his oatmeal plain and simple.

Otherwise, it becomes very difficult to scarf down in a speedy manner when you have less than a minute to eat as many bowls as possible.

That paid off Saturday when he entered the Oatmeal Eating Contest at the 37th annual Bertram Oatmeal Festival.

Sutherberg ate four bowls of oatmeal in one minute — taking home the championship medal by one and a half bowls over the second-place finisher.

“We saw the posting for this and saw that there was an eating competition,” said Sutherberg, a recent transplant to the area from Denver, Colorado. “So we decided to come down for that. I’d competed in a couple competitions like this before back in Colorado, but this was my first in Texas.”

Any of those prior competitions include oatmeal?

“No, no, never competed eating oatmeal before,” Sutherberg said with a laugh. “My strategy was just to approach it like other competitions and make sure I took swigs of water in between (bites).”

While he came for the competition, Sutherberg said he was impressed with the entire event, which was held solely in Downtown Bertram for the first time in event history.

“This really is a neat thing,” he said. “I’m here with my daughter and it’s a neat way to show her what life is like in small town Texas. We’ve been walking up and down the main street all day, this has been a good way to get to know the area and the people.”

Across the street from the podium where Sutherberg rapidly devoured oats, judges took their time tasting and judging various oatmeal creations entered into the Oatmeal Bake-off.

After a couple hours of judging, Emmalee Alkier and Pam Hawley claimed the grand prize.

Alkier, 13, won the junior division grand prize with her Pumpkin Oat Streusel Muffins, while Hawley won the senior division with Tomato Oatmeal Bread. Both took home a $133.33 prize.

Bake-off organizer Janet Habermehl said both creations impressed the judges with their creativity and presentation.

“Everybody was very surprised to try that tomato oatmeal bread. You think ‘Tomato and oatmeal?’ But, then when you try it, it was delicious,” Habermehl said. “Emmalee also went above and beyond with her presentation, which really impressed the judges.”

Historically, the festival had been held in two places, with the parade through downtown while the rest of the events where hosted at the fairgrounds. Moving everything to one central location ended up being the right decision.

Vendors selling oatmeal cookies, barbeque, and even lawn furniture, were set up and running as early as 8 a.m. and in place for early perusal before the parade. During the parade — which was preceded by a pet parade — people lined the streets to watch classic cars, horses and floats march down Vaughn Street.

Once the parade completed, the festival had a more impromptu feel to it. While there were still organized events, like the oatmeal eating contest and box stacking competition, visitors took their time to check out all of the attractions.

“This is my first time back here in 20 years, we live in Marble Falls so we decided to grab the kids and come out here for the day,” Waylon Boswell said. “I used to come to this all the time as a kid, so to see it like this today and everything they have to offer is awesome.”

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