Festival Report: The OATS Festival
by John and Katie Brutcher

Happy New Year!

As we head into another year of bluegrass, I would like to recap one of our favorite festivals I think everyone would enjoy.  The OATS festival.

OATS, which stands for Out Among The Stars, is held on the rodeo grounds in Benton, PA usually the first weekend in July.  Tucked between a scenic mountain range and an airstrip, think lots of green grass for small twin engine planes, and you'll find the perfect location for a bluegrass festival.

Like a big family reunion, John & I look forward to familiar faces and the best pot luck picnic ever!  Combine that with camaraderie, 1st class bluegrass and awesome jamming, and well, it just can't get any better.

Our very own Bill Knowlton does a great job at emceeing during the entire festival and we always look forward  to seeing another local central New Yorker. 

Last year's performance line up was the most diverse we've experienced.  There was the smooth sounding Gibson Brothers, the traditional IIIrd Tyme Out and the never-stop-dancing-on-stage and singing style of Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike.  Her energy is unbelievable.  Of course, the Hillbilly Gypsies were a hoot as most of you know from our own festival. 

A few years ago, OATS started a "roots & branches" stage, which showcases the more progressive bluegrass style.

Their picnic pavilion provides a nice covered space for all the workshops that included songwriting, arranging songs with a band, vocals, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bass, dobro, and live sound & recording.

In addition to all the great music, the OATS festival always offers an assortment of food vendors, clothing & jewelry vendors, the festival store selling t-shirts, tote bags, etc., 50/50 raffles, ice for the campers, a kid's program, and open camp fires are permitted.

At every festival, it seems that something funny, odd, or dramatic always happens that adds to that festivals experience. As was the case at last years OATS festival.

Having arrived early, John & I were watching other campers come in and set up when  an unusual contraption rolled in.  So out of curiosity, John & I meandered over to check things out.  Turns out that it was by no means a contraption at all, but the most elaborate BBQ cooker we've ever seen.

The owner of this cooker, which John & I affectionately nicknamed the "black beast", is a local chap named Andy Yanchick, who happens to be an experienced wielder.  Andy states, "that it all started out as a hobby" making a small smoker at first.  Then, he decided , along with some nudging from his friends, to add another smoker.  Then came a grill, which grew into a full kitchen and then added a little something here and a little something there and then finally a roof. 

He admits he searches the areas junk yards for the scrape that he needs and takes pleasure in finding that perfect piece of scrape and then making it into something useful.




Andy practices his cooking and smoking techniques on his friends, who eagerly volunteer to be taste testers, and by the aroma that emanated toward our camper I can understand why. 

Andy also says, "that he is interested in possibly serving the public with his BBQ cooker, but wants to be sure all his i's are dotted and t's are crossed before that happens". 

John & I are looking forward to the "black beast" again this year and hopefully sampling some of his BBQ.

Also, for this year, John & I are hoping to set up our 20" telescope somewhere out on the festival grounds along with having a brief astronomy program.  If all goes according to plan, concert goers will then truly be able to see the stars "out among the stars"!

See ya all on the field,

John & Katie Brutcher