Saturday was a glorious day to celebrate the 85th edition of Shelley’s Spud Day. Thousands attended.
This year’s theme was “Under the Big Top" and the Spud Day committee certainly delivered.
The parade featured Miss Russet--Carly Nelson--and her court, cheerleaders, dancers, politicians, floats and farm equipment.
Seven thousand baked potatoes were prepared for all comers. At noon, people lined up across the city park to receive a potato loaded with butter, sour cream and cheese. Milk was also served.
Basic American Foods provided the potatoes and the Idaho Dairymen Association provided the dairy products.
The Community Orchestra at Firth featured a wide variety of music. The performance started with “Battlestar Galactica” and concluded with the “Washington Post March” by John Philip Sousa, with “Lassus Trombone,” and “God Bless the U.S.A.” performed with other popular orchestral music.
The Reptile Guy, Corbin Maxey, from Meridian, introduced the crowd to his reptile friends, a Nile Monitor Lizard was on hand as well as a male alligator named Chompers.
“Do you see the iridescent scales on the Brazilian Rainbow Boa?” Maxey asked the crowd.
He showed a snake about hand size that was quite the comparison when followed by a 100-pound Albino Burmese Python.
“There are 220 different kinds of snakes,” he said. “Only about 20 species of snakes will harm you.”
Snapping turtles have worm-like tongues,” Maxey said. “They also have about 11,000 pounds of jaw pressure.
“Snapping turtles come from the Ozarks and eat dead and dying fish,” he said. “Their eggs that are the size of a pinhead are food for other animals in the food chain.”
A tortoise named Tinker Belle and two of her offspring, Henry and Little Foot, were crowd -pleasers.
Maxey works with rescued reptiles. When he was 12 (he is now 24), he founded Cyprus Hill Reptile Reserve, a non-profit organization in Meridian. The reserve is dedicated to reptile rescue, conservation, and education. To this day, Maxey has found homes for hundreds of homeless, abused, and neglected reptiles and amphibians.
This year was the 20th anniversary of the Spud Tug. Team members were weighed to come to as close to and not over 1,000 pounds per team. Teams line up against each other with the objective of pulling the opposing team into the prepared mashed potato vat.
Just before the competition started, Miss Russet jumped into the potato vat to taste the spuds.
“They’re pretty good,” she said.
Six teams entered the children’s division. The final tug was between Flores’ Flowers and Cross Country with Flores’ Flowers pulling out the victory.
Thirteen teams were in the adult division. The final pull was Boondockers versus Beehive Credit. Boondockers took home the $150 prize money and trophy.
Spud-picking is the oldest competition in the Spud Day celebration.
Winners in the men’s and women’s divisions earn $100 and a plaque.
The competition is simple but not easy. Competitors gather potatoes in wire baskets and then dump the contents of the baskets into potato sacks.
Men gather 500 pounds of potatoes in this timed event. Eighteen men competed this year.
Chad Baker was the winner. His time was 4:11 minutes. His winning time in the 2012 competition was 4:14. Steve Prescott was second with a time of 5:04. His time in 2012 was 4:51.
Jon Stosich claimed third place with a time of 6:10.
The women gather 400 pounds of potatoes in their event.
Confusion reigned in the women's competition this year.
As weighed after the running of the competition the first time, two lines of potatoes in the women’s competition weighed only 300 pounds, not the required 400 pounds.
“No one knows how it happened; it was not done on purpose,” said Spud-picking judge Peggy Russell.
Two competitors--Ronalee Williams and Andrea Bateman--picked a total of 700 pounds of potatoes Saturday. During the first go-round, each picked 300 pounds and during the second, they each picked another 400 pounds.
Williams picked the first 300 pounds in 4:10 and the second 400 pounds in 6:41. Bateman picked the first 300 pounds in 5:05 and the second 400 pounds in 7:49.
Winners in this year's women’s competition were DeDe Wells in 6:30; Robyn King in 6:30 (they flipped a coin to determine the winner) and Kendra Price in 6:31.
In the women’s division, 19 competed.