When mid-October rolls around, most spud farmers are still out in the fields harvesting their potato crops, but that doesn’t keep Merrill from getting flooded with folks coming to take in the Klamath Basin Potato Festival. With a nice, sunny Saturday morning, Highway 39 was lined with people from all around the Basin to take in the pageantry of the 74th Annual Potato Festival parade.
This year, we vowed to not be beaten by the Merrill branch of Sterling Savings Bank. For the last few years, we thought we had one heckuva’ float only to be outdone by the bank crew. This time around, we decided to go big – big rig big. Office assistant Keely Oswald generaled the valiant Gold Dust office crew to put together a monster of a float to celebrate this year’s theme “Potatoes On Parade”. The Friday before the parade, flags and Mr. Potato Head-like characters were created wearing pageant banners advertising the various customers we had and countries we ship chipping potatoes to. Even Tricia’s daughters, Rory and Mari, were put on the production line painting shoes for the potatoes to wear. It was definitely a team effort with all-hands on deck!
Saturday morning, the Gold Dust crew gathered in Merrill to race the clock to put the float together. Straw bales were piled high and the potato characters placed for the ride down the parade route. Even Lexi’s friends from Portland, Scott and Haley Fish, pitched in to assemble the float. The icing on the cake was our special delivery of red, white and blue balloons delivered by Clee and Sheila Crawford of Blue Sky Hydroponics. Now THIS was a float! And a little after 11 a.m., we rolled out, fifth in line, to toss candy and hand out bags of Lay’s chips to people lining the street. While we hope to have finally taken first place away from Sterling, even if we didn’t, watching the kids scramble for candy and sharing the product of one of our customers was a lot of fun.
While every year we spend time on the blog talking about the parade and our float, let’s not forget that this is a potato festival – with potato judging! This year with the help our agronomist Dan Jepsen and intern Tatsuma Inui, we entered a collection of chipping potatoes to be judged, which took home the blue ribbon! Dan and Tatsuma were also instrumental in providing potatoes for our kids Rory and Mari Hill, Walker Crawford and Hector Briseno to pick and enter in the Freakiest Potato competition (and yes, they won ribbons too!).
If you’ve never been to the Klamath Basin Potato Festival, make sure you leave mid-October open next year for the 75th anniversary. Merrill has a great small-town feel, and with high-school football games, vendors selling everything from potato chip cookies to Irish sundaes to quilts, and Old Time Fiddlers providing nice background music, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. We hope to see you next year!
That float looks pretty awesome, huh? Want to see it in action rolling through Merrill?
Before we wrap up this post, we have a lot of thank you’s to give out. First off, we’d like to thank Keely Oswald for taking on the float and putting in the leg-work to make it awesome. And thanks again for getting your husband, Nick, to donate the straw for the float! We’d also like to thank the Gold Dust office crew – Lexi, Sarah, Nayeli, Mayra, Necia and Tricia for putting in the extra work to help make Keely’s vision a reality. We’d also like to thank Rich Wright and his family, Brock Phillips, Scott and Haley Fish and Rob Edgar for their help putting the float together on parade day. We’d also like to extend a thank you to Sheila and Clee Crawford for the road-side balloon delivery. And last but not least, we’d like to give a big thank you to Dan and Tatsuma for helping pick out all of the blue-ribbon chipping potatoes for the judging contest!
And of course, we’d like to thank the special guest candy-throwers – Emma and TJ Chavez, Hector and Jayden, Rich’s son Eduardo, Walker, Rory and Mari!