Oatmeal Festival delights crowds

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By Christian Betancourt

BERTRAM — Plenty of festival fans brought their sugars to Bertram Saturday to celebrate the 44th Annual Oatmeal Festival.

During the day, visitors enjoyed The Oatmeal Sound Company, a pet parade, a baking competition, a washer competition, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors and baked goods.

The main draw was a parade featuring local business owners, public figures, local youth groups, royalty from the Oatmeal Court as well as the Llano Rodeo Court, classic cars, and even a giant dinosaur skeleton made from spare auto parts.

Oatmeal Festival Secretary Anastasia Vance said about 30 volunteers and 60 vendors helped make the festival a success.

Jeff and Amanda Long decided to volunteer at the festival after attending it for many years.

“It’s always so much fun, and we wanted to help out in any way that we could,” said Amanda. “We live in Cedar Park, but my mom lives here. It’s wonderful, and it’s nice to help.”

Phil Talarcek brought his 12-year-old daughter Caroline to compete at the Oatmeal Festival’s Run for Your Oats fun run and won first place in their respective categories. The father-daughter duo competes in several races throughout the year.

“We run as a lifetime support of health and having a skill,” said Phil. “We usually run every weekend for the Texas Beef Team to support the ranchers. We’re doing run for the water, Delaware shores, and the Detroit half marathon. We’re looking forward to some good food and the rock wall.”

For Susana Loftis, the Oatmeal Festival is an event she started attending with her children and continues with her grandchildren. She awaited the pet parade in the shade while explaining the practices to her 18-month-old grandson Mitchell.

“We live in Bertram, and we’ve been coming here for years and years,” she said of the family’s tradition. “Our kids graduated from Burnet High School, and they were part of the band. They would play Friday night at the game and come here Saturday to march in the parade. They grew up, and now our grandkids enjoy the parade and the festivities. Everybody knows everybody here, and it’s just great to see people walking around and having a good time.”

Sarah Kirkle and Joe Walding, along with their two dogs Schatzi and Murphy, make it a point to visit all kinds of festivals around Austin. Kirkle said her hobby was dampened by the pandemic but felt safe at the Oatmeal Festival since most activities would be outside.

“I heard that they shoot Oatmeal, so we’ll see if that happens or not,” she said. “I hope that it happens. That will be the highlight if they do. We’ve been having a great time. It’s great to see everybody out. It’s Schatzi’s 10th birthday, so he’s pretty excited. It’s always fun to see the arts and crafts at these festivals.”

Unfortunately, this year there was no airplane dropping oatmeal to signify the beginning of the parade. Vance said a plane wasn’t available. As a substitute, those on floats for the parade were throwing oatmeal at the crowd.

Micaela and Robin Steffek have been to the festival many times through the years. Micaela participated in the parade as her school years progressed. The pair said every year the festival allows them to visit with neighbors and friends who might otherwise be forgotten.

“We visit with old friends that we don’t see as often,” said Robin. “It’s very family-oriented.”

Lisa Rose discovered the Oatmeal Festival seven years ago and made it a staple of her Labor Day celebration by inviting others to the event and satisfying her craving for oatmeal cookies.

“It’s freaking cool,” she said. “Every year I bring more and more people. It really is a family thing. I’ve brought my grandkids here, my mom, and even my boss. I hate oatmeal, but I eat it here with the cookies that the ladies bake. They have different flavors of cookies, and I just tear them up. I spend about $20 just in cookies every year.”

The night ended with Cody Hibbard performing at a street dance in downtown Bertram.

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