When the Idaho Potato Commission decided to build the tallest, longest, heaviest spud in the known world to commemorate their 75th anniversary, no doubt some thought it was a half-baked idea. But they must have buttered up the right people, because they got their tuber and took the show on the road.
This 28-footer is no couch potato. The spud and its entourage (driver and “tater team members”) have been crisscrossing the U.S. in a long flatbed trailer for the better part of six months, stopping at towns small and large along the way.
It seems fitting, proper, even inevitable that The Great Big Idaho™ Potato should share some quality time with another giant in the food world -- Pasadena’s own 18-foot tall, 500-pound Fork in the Road, a permanent art installation on Bellefontaine.
The fork in the road first appeared in 2009 when Bob Stane, the founder of Altadena's Coffee Gallery Backstage and the artist who made the fork, Ken Marshall, erected the fork in a guerrilla art fashion. It was taken down, but eventually properly permitted and installed permanently in 2011.
Those who arranged the summit hope to bring attention to two charities; the Potato supports Meals on Wheels, and the utensil can take credit for a grassroots effort called “Put a Fork in Hunger,“ which collected 5 tons of food for Union Station Homeless Services last year.
By Tuesday noon, a crowd was starting to gather at Bellefontaine. “Oh my,” giggled one woman, “Is it just me, or does anyone else smell French fries? ”
Another spectator, John Houghton of San Luis Obispo, said, “I had to pull over. This is even better than the Wiener Mobile.”
The Great Big Idaho Potato will pull out of Pasadena this evening, and make its way to Arizona. The tater tour winds up at the end of the year.
“It’s the best job I've ever had,” said the long-bed driver and spud chauffeur Paul Humbracht. “I wish it could go on forever. We’ll be back on the road next May.”
The best job ever? Why is that?
“Because on the road and wherever we stop, people are happy to see us. When you’re hauling a giant potato, there’s no such thing as a bad day.”
(The Great Big Idaho Potato will be on site at the 200-block of Bellefontaine until 6 p.m., Tuesday. Fork in the Road Gang notables such as Bob Stane and Phil Coombes will be around to chat and accept donations of non-perishable food items. This is a kick start to the "Put the Fork in Hunger" food drive taking place November 10th and 11th.)