CARBONDALE — Carbondale will combine its 125th birthday as a town with the 104th annual Potato Day celebration this weekend, beginning on Sept. 27 with the popular Tater Trot 5K and one-mile run/walk.
Practically speaking, that means the celebration will take place during an evening and a day, since most of the activities will be on Saturday, Sept. 28.
The Trot begins at the Hendrick Ranch soccer field at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
As it has been for several years, the Xi Gamma Tau service sorority is the organizing force behind the Potato Day festivities, although this year another sorority that has participated in past years, Zeta Epsilon, will not be taking part.
“We’re service sororities,” noted Lynne Jammaron of Xi Gamma Tau, “and we also enjoy ourselves,” so the Potato Day organizing is a natural for the group.
And this year again, Potato Day is being held at the same time as the Roaring Fork High School Homecoming party and game on Friday night, where the Roaring Fork Rams will face the Paonia Eagles.
On Saturday, the day’s activities begin with a Farmers Market in Sopris Park, starting at 8 a.m., featuring a range of locally produced foods and crafts, including locally grown, organic potatoes in a salute to Carbondale’s once-pre-eminent role as potato grower to the nation.
A horseshoe tournament gets going at 10 a.m. in Glassier Park on Weant Boulevard, near the Mt. Sopris Historical Society museum, and the traditional parade begins at about 10:30 a.m.
“It’s a very special parade,” remarked Jammaron, explaining that it is more of a homey, small-town event than other area civic festivals.
“Potato Day is more of a local event, a reunion-type thing,” she added, where longtime local families and newcomers can mingle together in a peaceful but entertaining setting.
Parade organizer Lisa Quint, who was still gathering applications on Tuesday, said entries are still being accepted at the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. Interested parties should call the Chamber (963-1890) and ask that an application be emailed out. Completed applications, Quint said, can either be faxed to the Chamber (963-4719) or hand-delivered with the entry fee. Entry fees also can be turned in to Quint or one of her assistants on parade day.
The parade entries will be judged by a panel made up of Mayor Stacey Bernot, Trustee John Foulkrod, former trustee Susie Darrow and local businessman Ben Ludlow. The announcer will be Jen Roeser of the KDNK community access radio station, and Quint said she expects everything from “a huge contingent of kids from Crystal River Elementary School,” to equestrian demonstrations, a Gymkhana group and the Homecoming Royalty. Grand Marshall this year will actually be a group of people, representing the Senior Matters organization.
From 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., the band All The Pretty Horses will be serenading participants before, during and after the traditional barbecue dinner at the park, which begins at noon. At $10 per ticket, consumers are treated to a traditional barbecue sandwich and potato, both roasted overnight in the Sopris Park barbecue pit, along with coleslaw and baked beans.
Also at noon, the Birthday Cake Bake-off gets under way (entries must be at the park pavilion by 11 a.m.), and afterward pieces of the entries will be sold off for desert.
The proceeds from Potato Day events go to the sorority, which each year raises between $6,000 and $8,000 to be donated to various nonprofit organizations, or used to buy Christmas presents for residents at the Heritage Park Care Center, or other causes taken up by Xi Gamma Tau.
Jammaron said the money raised in the past has benefited such recipients as the Advocate Safe House for battered women, YouthZone, River Bridge for abused children, Hospice of the Valley, Project Graduation and the Carbondale Senior Housing program, to buy large-print books for the residents.
“All the money that we raise goes to those types of organizations,” Jammaron said, adding that sponsor donations are critical to the annual fundraising effort.
Potato Day began in 1909, as a commemoration of the annual crop of spuds grown throughout the Roaring Fork Valley at that time.
It has been maintained almost every year ever since, sometimes by groups of local ranchers, and starting in 1994 by the local sororities.