Bring your sugar to the Oatmeal Festival on Labor Day weekend
By Christian Betancourt
BERTRAM — What began in 1978 as a spoof on chili cook-offs and a way to put the community of Oatmeal on the official Texas map has become one of the most anticipated festivals in central Texas.
After a year’s hiatus due to COVID, the Oatmeal Festival, which now raises funds for local student scholarships, returns this Labor Day weekend.
“We had the rural community of Oatmeal as our neighbor to the south, and it was simply too good an idea to overlook,” according to information posted on the festival’s website. “The folks who put together the official map of the State of Texas at that time had also decided to leave Oatmeal off the map because there was not an intersection of main highways there. Oatmeal (the town) is back on the map, and we have a lot of folks who come home to the country every Labor Day Weekend, no matter the weather, because everyone looks forward to the Oatmeal Festival.”
In the early years of the festival, Oatmeal companies sponsored the event centered around the food, according to their site.
The festival begins on Sept. 3 at the Community Center in Oatmeal, west of Liberty Hill.
“It starts on Friday, at 5 p.m.,” said Oatmeal Festival Secretary Anastasia Vance. “(It will be) followed by a Miss Oatmeal Pageant, the cake auction, and then there will be some live music out there (featuring Chris Reeves and Ritchie Bustillo).”
The festivities continue Sept. 4, in downtown Bertram.
“The fun run starts at eight o’clock in the morning along with the trail ride that goes from the community of Oatmeal to downtown Bertram,” said Vance. “The (5K) run is called ‘Run for your Oats’. Our arts and craft vendors open at 8 a.m. We have a silent auction that runs from 8:30 to 2. We have a bake-off that runs from 9 to 11.”
To enter the bake-off, participants need to use a minimum of a cup of oatmeal in their recipes, according to Vance.
“We have junior and adult categories,” she said. “We have a pet parade followed by the grand parade, and then we have barbecue plates for sale after the grand parade is over.”
The event will also feature what Vance called a mini-carnival with rides for children for a fee. Cody Hibbard will headline the event, with the Steel Belts making an appearance as special guests.
“We will have $20 wristbands, and it’s good for every ride all day long,” she said. “Then the water tournament will begin at 12. At 1:30, they’ll have a bird from homecoming, which is something they do for the people that graduated from Bertram High School. We will have a street band that will play at 8 p.m.”
Vance said the festival allows local students to volunteer and obtain scholarships based on their participation.
“Our mission statement is endeavoring to ensure scholarship opportunities and supporting programs to enhance our community,” she said. “We are a worship-driven festival. The money that we earned goes back to the students who volunteer to help us out over the course of the weekend. So, the more years and the more hours they have volunteered, the greater their scholarship is going to be.”
Vance said there would be barbecue plates along with food and other vendors available throughout the festival.
“It’s just basically a fun time to bring your family and friends out and just, you know, see what we have to offer,” said Vance. “There are some local businesses that are open during the festival as well as many local businesses who will have a vendor spot.”