You always hear people say that the best part about traveling are the people you meet and the things you see. And while the Tater Team agrees whole heartedly with that saying, they would also like to add ‘the things we eat’ to the list. Which is why they could not have been more happy to start off their 3rd week of the tour in Kansas City; home of some of the sauciest BBQ this side of the Mississippi! They ate until they were fit to burst to ensure that they had enough fuel to last them until Wisconsin; their final state of the week. But it was not the destination that had them excited, it was the ‘in-betweens’, or better yet, ‘the journey’, that they were so anxious to experience. And they can definitely say that it has been a memorable one thus far.
Right from the get-go there seemed to be more food than manageable in the Kansas City area. But the great thing was that you had options. If you were tired of BBQ then you could have just come to your local Hen House in Overland Park for the Famous Idaho Potato Tour’s first Chef Event! That’s right, the Tater Team had an entourage of supporting acts that featured the wonderful chefs from bluestem Restaurant (lower case intended), a magnificent vegetable carver, and a couple of DJs from the local radio station, 95.7 The Vibe.
Chefs Megan and Colby Garrelts, from bluestem Restaurant, kept their minds distracted and their mouths watering with the sight and smell of their Smoked Idaho Potato Soup. The soup was a puree of crispy pork, fava beans, fresh goats milk mousseline, 5 lilies (5 different onions), and most importantly, Idaho potatoes! But hold on now, don’t go scarfing it down just yet, first we need to top it off with some of their chewy bacon bits and fresh chives!
The next act at the Chef Event was the boardwalk veteran, Stu Tarlowe. Stu showed up to teach the people how to whittle your Idaho potatoes into roses. And the only thing sharper than his knife was his tongue. Stu ‘wheeled and dealed’ as he demonstrated some of his most exotic carved-vegetable novelties: roses out of potatoes, beets, and rutabaga; palm trees out of sweet potatoes, bell peppers and grapes; and even a salad shark carved from a cucumber. The only time his hands, or his mouth, stopped moving were to put an exclamation point on the punch line of a well placed joke. Be sure and check out the Kansas City Event webisode to learn how to turn your baked potatoes into beautiful roses!
Shortly after the Chef Event, the team got back on the road and set their sights on Iowa, the Potato State… or wait, that’s Idaho… which is by Illinois right? I will have to double check on that. Either way, they were heading to Iowa, which is the state often confused with Idaho. Right from the start their shared plight with the rest of the country’s lack of geographical awareness created a lasting bond between the residents and Tater Team. People were excited to see the potato but even more excited to tell their stories about being mistaken for Idahoans. Overall, the warmth of the people and their excitement over the giant spud created a welcome environment while the tour stayed in the Des Moines area. And just so we can clarify, Idaho does potatoes and is in the Pacific Northwest. Iowa does corn and is in the Midwest. See the picture below if more info is needed.
The next stop on the tour took the team to Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the Mall of America. This was a special stop on the tour both inside and outside of the events. Outside of the events the Tater Team’s driver, Paul, was reunited with his son after a month on the road. His son, Ian, rode down from North Dakota with his uncle and some cousins to check out our giant spud and ride some coasters inside the Mall of America. Tour Ambassador Kaiti also had a monumental visit to the mall by keeping her shopping bill under a $1,000 and limiting her shoe purchases to only four pairs. Needless to say, everyone was impressed by her extraordinary will power. But old habits were harder to kick for Tour Ambassador Ellis. He let his indecisiveness to purchase a new pair of running shoes bubble over into a two-hour struggle that had the salesman ready to abandon his commission. But in the end, the shoes were bought and Kaiti swears she heard him muttering about returning them before the end of the day.
Cubs Super Valu was the store chain nice enough to host our tour in the Minneapolis area. It was a wonderful, sunny day for the events and the Tater Team were not the only ones out to enjoy it. Marketers Keith and Amy from Betty Crocker’s potato division brought out their crew from the research and development group to do a little ‘onsite’ R&D. This division deals with potato products such as flavored mash, casserole and skillet potatoes that you can purchase across the United States. The best part about their products is that the majority of their potatoes are sourced right out of the Blackfoot, Idaho region. The lively crew brought their own potato props for a photo shoot before wrapping up the day’s festivities at Old Chicago.
As the team finished up the week by crossing the border into Wisconsin, they looked back at some of the new friends they had made. People from all over the country are getting to experience the most spectacular attraction on wheels, and no one leaves without understanding how important Idaho Potatoes are to us and to them. Even more rewarding are the displaced Idahoans that run up full of pride and excitement to reconnect with the oversized icon of their home state. After countless impressions in only three weeks, it is hard to imagine how many more will come in the next six months.
Leslie Mitchell (left) grew up in Boise and graduated from Capital High School. Rob Insinger (right) and his family have had a vacation home in Ketchum since his parents honeymooned their in the 1940s. The two met in Boise, moved to the Denver area and have been following our tour so that they could come and see us.
Elder Westmoreland (right) grew up in Meridian and is currently serving an LDS mission in the Des Moines area with his companion, Elder Russell (from Utah). Both had to stop to take pictures as they were driving by and saw the giant Idaho spud parked on the side of the road.