Potato Day cooks again in Carbondale
CARBONDALE — A parade down Main Street and a traditional, slow-cooked barbecue in Sopris Park were just some of the highlights of this year’s Potato Day festival.
Potato Day began in 1909 as a tradition celebrating the potato harvest. At the time, Carbondale’s biggest cash crop was the potato, and that remained true until the middle of the 20th century.
Now, potato farming isn’t nearly as prominent in the region, but the community comes together every year anyway to keep this tradition alive with a farmers market, parade, barbecue, live music and fun for the kids.
This year, the parade down Main Street featured appearances by Crystal River Elementary School, the Democratic and Republican parties, Senior Matters, the Carbondale Middle School marching band and more. Onlookers were able to watch fire trucks, floats, horses and even goats strut down the street, and youngsters were especially pleased to chase after candy tossed from the procession.
After the parade, hundreds gathered in Sopris Park and began lining up for the famous barbecue — the meat and potatoes are annually slow cooked in a fire pit in the ground beginning the night before the festival. Tents were also set up by various local organizations serving other treats, and a cauldron of coffee drew a crowd as well. Bouncy houses and other activities were set up for the kids.
Attendees this year ranged from longtime residents to city slicker transplants, but the traditional event was fun for all.
Jessica Bartlett, who has lived in Carbondale for more than 20 years, said she never misses a Potato Day. She said she comes for the good weather, good food and fun for her three children.
“I was in the parade,” Bartlett’s 6-year-old daughter, Angel, said proudly. It was Angel’s first time in the parade with her school, Crystal River Elementary School, and she said throwing the candy was her favorite part.
Bartlett also has a 4-year-old daughter and a 6-week old son.
“It’s his first Potato Day,” Bartlett said.
For Megan Currier, who has been a Carbondale resident for about 15 years, the parade and the barbecue are tied for the best part of Potato Day.
“I think the parade is my favorite part, although the barbecue is one of the best meals I have all year,” Currier said. “It’s delicious, so that’s a highlight also. It’s tied between the parade and the barbecue.”
This year, Currier came to Potato Day with her two children, who are 8 and 6. Although the food is a huge draw, she has a more personal reason for attending almost every year.
“I get to see all my friends,” she said.
Friends Sondie Reiff and Jody Ensign, who have lived in Carbondale for two and 14 years, respectively, said they enjoy the festival because it fills Sopris Park with happy families.
“All the people that come out for the parade, the families, it’s just terrific,” said Reiff.
Ensign agreed. “The food’s great, and just seeing all the people and the parade is wonderful,” she said.
While Reiff is still fairly new to Carbondale, she said Potato Day is one of the highlights of the town.
“This is my second Potato Day because I’ve only been in Carbondale for two years, and I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “The food and the parade are my favorite parts.”
Sandra Shafer, who has lived in Carbondale for 12 years, said she has come to Potato Day every year since having children.
She came this year with her 9- and 6-year-olds, who were rambunctiously playing near the grandstand.
“The parade is fun,” she said. “They love being in the parade. They were happy fixing up the float for the parade at their school, Carbondale Community School.”
Glenwood Springs resident Mindy Kennedy, who has lived there for three years, has come to every Potato Day since moving to the valley. But this was the first Potato Day for her 3-month old son. He has a lot to learn from his older sister, who, at 3, has spent every year of her life celebrating tradition in Carbondale.
“My daughter really enjoys going to the parade, and I enjoy sitting in the park and getting together with family,” Kennedy said. “It’s just a really nice time.”
Not everyone who attended Potato Day this year were old pros. Dan Bender, who has lived in Carbondale for three months after moving from New York City, had his first experience with the festival this year with his three children, ages 6, 3 and 1.
So far, he likes what he’s seen.
“It’s very fun,” Bender said. “We came from the New York City area, so it’s fun to come to a small town and experience types of things like this; you don’t get a lot of quaint stuff in the city.”
New York City must have its perks, but Bender’s children seemed perfectly content to play in the close-knit Potato Day community.
“It’s a lot of fun for them,” Bender said. “It’s nice to come to a community where you can walk around a park and play and not have to worry about safety issues and things like that. It’s just a really good, fun community event.”
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The first in-person local festival of the year has arrived with Dandelion Day making its return to Sopris Park in Carbondale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.